Celebrate Friends-Giving

Hello! My name is Molly Breen, and I am a Live Green! Intern in the Office of Sustainability. My teammate, Paige, and I recently blogged about our first sustainability event of the 2016-2017 academic year, National Campus Sustainability Day! Today I am back to talk about a fun and unique twist to celebrating Thanksgiving – Friends-Giving.

November is a month of family, friends, food and, most importantly, being thankful. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the craziness of the holiday season and all the family celebrations to keep track of and overlook the fun and joy of gathering together and being thankful for all of the opportunities and blessings we enjoy.

One idea to assist in better embracing kicking back, relaxing and enjoying is by celebrating Friends-Giving. Friends-Giving is a popular trend focused around celebrating the season with friends, in addition to families.  Not only does this offer another opportunity to celebrate, it means, two holiday meals and that much more time to be thankful. Unlike the traditional Thanksgiving gathering, Friends-Giving encourages the opportunity to add some originality into your celebration in ways such as by having a themed potluck, getting crafty with reusable items, or just taking time to share your gratitude.

So… let’s look a bit more at the possibilities for each of these.  


Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries…oh my. November is a time to indulge and finally take a break from work and studies. While the traditional dishes are always delicious, a fun twist is to host a potluck to share a variety of sweet and savory dishes to enjoy with friends. To add some spice into your meal… you can actually add a theme all the food has to fall within or ban any traditional Thanksgiving foods to save them for Thanksgiving dinner.  

It’s easy to put together a gathering around food.  All you need to do is pick a date with some friends and have each pick a food item to bring. Remember in the spirit of being sustainable try and buy local ingredients whenever possible.  This could also be a theme – bringing only dishes that can be made with all local ingredients.  A favorite recipe of mine is an apple pie made with apples from a local orchard and homemade pie crust. Another twist on your gathering can be for everyone to bring ingredients and cook together, instead of just bringing finished dishes.  This adds a fun group activity as well as delicious food to your Friends-Giving.  

An obvious challenge with any gathering around food is how to not waste it.  If your friends are not as hungry as anticipated do not throw the extra food away, make it useful! Most thanksgiving foods can be turned into a variety of other meals like a turkey sandwich or shepherd’s pie, through “Greening your Leftovers” (shown on page 12 of the November Live Green! newsletter).  If your guests are traveling and are not able to easily take leftovers home, donating your extra food is great way to show your thankfulness as well.  Check in with local shelters of community support groups to see what options may be available in your area.  


What to do when the eating is done?  There are tons of green-it-yourself (GIYS) crafts that can offer a fun distraction to any gathering!! With the holiday season upon us, there are so many useful and timely considerations for things to craft, such as decorations. One of my personal favorites is wreaths. Wreaths can be made from SO many different things that you likely have laying around, can gather outside or can find at a thrift shop.  These different wreaths (pictured below), for example, made with recyclable materials are eco-friendly and free and  would spice up any door. For more GIY decorations and crafts for the holiday season, check out Crafting a Green World for some fun ideas.

In the spirit of friends-giving, you could also show someone how thankful you are by giving them your GIY you created. Nothing can beat the love and uniqueness of a handmade gift.


Lastly, the underlying reason for Thanksgiving, giving thanks.  It’s important at any variety of Friends-Giving you embark upon to incorporate sharing thankfulness with each other. It is easy to get caught up in school and work, take for granted all that you have and forget about all the amazing people in your life and things happening around you. One thing my friends and I enjoy at our Friends-Giving is each take a turn and verbally say what we are thankful this holiday season. It is fun to hear everyone else’s perspective and it can lead to other discussions about the people and things that bring you thanks. Besides verbally expressing thanks, you can offer thanks through other unique ways, such as creating a “pumpkin of thanks” that can be a centerpiece for your gathering.  For other fun ideas, check out this list.


These three ideas together create the best friends-giving possible with food, crafts, and gratitude, but no matter what unique pieces you might incorporate into your celebrations, remember to be thankful.


How to Move-Out Sustainably

After writing a wonderful blog post on Sustainapalooza, Honors student Lauren Young is back with a new article on moving out sustainably!  If you’re leaving Ames for the summer then be sure to check out these helpful tips on cleaning out your residence hall room or apartment!

Hello, I’m back again! My name is Lauren Young, and I am a freshman at Iowa State University. I have been given the amazing opportunity to conduct research this semester through the Honors Mentor Program, and I have been working with the Office of Sustainability and the Live Green! Initiative.

The research I have been doing is a little different than your typical research in a lab. My tasks include things like doing research for the monthly newsletter, going to events, and writing blog posts! Working with the Live Green team and learning a variety of new things about sustainability has been an awesome experience, and I’m also learning how to effectively communicate my findings to students.

For this particular blog post, I was challenged to make my move-out at the end of the year more sustainable!

Moving your belongings from your apartment or dorm all the way back home can be incredibly daunting.  As a freshman, I’ve never had to deal with moving out – until now! So, I decided to begin my move-out process by taking an inventory of all of my items.


I spent time walking around my dorm and looking at all the stuff I had crammed everywhere. Even though my room is small, I still had a ton of stuff! My list consisted of things like a shower curtain, textbooks, unused school supplies, washrags, shower shelf, rugs, extra cleaning supplies, blankets, and unwanted clothes. It was a pretty lengthy list!

Next, I made a plan for each item: take it home, give it away, or throw it out. For example, I wanted to keep all my bedding, but I could get rid of all of my extra Clorox wipes. After looking at all of my plans, I realized there was definitely room for improvement when it comes to being more green and sustainable.

Did I really need to throw out all of my cleaning supplies?

Were there ways that I could repurpose my old rugs?

Is there somewhere I can donate clothes I don’t need? 

After doing some research, I found a lot of sustainable alternatives to throwing out unwanted things. There are countless places that take donations around Ames, and I was also able to find some crafty ways to repurpose old items (thanks Pinterest!) like the shower caddy shelf in my shower. Did you know you that shower caddies are a great place for potted plants?


Next I needed to decide what I could get rid of now and what I would need to keep until my final move-out. For example, I had some extra clothes and rags I had no use for, but I’d need things like textbooks and my shower curtain until the end of the year. If there were things I could get rid of now, I decided I might as well get a head start and donate them right away. Starting early means less stress for me when it came to finals week and move-out.

My grandparents live in Ames, so I asked them to come out with me for a day of donations. I loaded up two bags!  The first one contained Clorox and Windex wipes, rags, and a blanket. The local Ames Animal Shelter uses these and loves donations, so the first bag went there. They were very excited and thankful for the donation, and I even got to hold a puppy, so overall it was a great experience!

My second bag contained gently-used clothes, a laundry bag, and a fan. My grandma added some of her things to my pile and all of those items went to The Salvation Army. Unlike other donation sites, both of the organizations I donated to keep their items in the local Ames community. So donating my residence hall items was a great way to give back to the town I love!


About a week later I was done using one of my books for English, so I did not need it anymore. My sorority, Pi Beta Phi, has a philanthropy that supports literacy, and for the philanthropy we take book donations. So I donated my book to our philanthropy!

I was lightening my move out load while contributing to a cause I love. The best part is, as a college student with no car, all of the places I donated items to could be reached by the CyRide bus system!


As for the rest of my items, I’ve already planned out where each item should go. For example, I am not usually one to keep old textbooks, so when finals end I will be ready to get rid of them, either by selling them back to the University Bookstore or donating them to the Ames Public Library. There are also Facebook pages and other secure websites that allow for textbook selling and swapping, and one of the easiest ways to get rid of books is to ask  friends if they’d like to purchase them for next semester.

The ISU Department of Residence also offers a program called SAVE that begins April 21 and continues until May 11. The SAVE program provides drop-off locations in many of the residential areas so students can get rid of unwanted items all at once .


Since there are some items that I will not use until next semester, my grandparents offered to store them here in Ames.  (Thanks, grandparents!)  It doesn’t make sense to move those items home just have to have them go unused all summer. If you have a lot of residence hall items you’d rather keep in Ames, you can look into renting a storage unit or you can ask friends staying in Ames to store your items for the summer.

Now finals week and move out will be a breeze for me! I have less to move out, and I have plans for each and every piece that’s still left. Taking stock of all the items in my residence hall room really helped me to make a move out plan rather than having to make last minute decisions.

It also felt good to give back to the community, and I now I won’t have a guilty conscience from throwing an excessive amount of stuff in the trash! I encourage you all to make a move-out plan, but even if you don’t it is still important to be conscientious about the items that you throw away during move out.  Overall taking stock of your residence hall items will definitely make your life easier and help the community and the environment at the same time! It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN.

Written by: Lauren Young
Edited by: Laurelin Haas and Madi VanGundy
Featured image from: blog.a1storage.com

Bokashi Composting Basics: The Food Waste Solution for the Sustainable College Student

Ask yourself this question: How many times do you take your trash out in a single month? Once? Twice? Three times? Even four?

Why does it matter how much waste we throw away? Waste in landfills releases methane and CO2, which has an impact on global climate change1. We also end up throwing away beneficial materials, like food waste, that can be used productively for other purposes.

In early January, I participated in a Zero Waste Week challenge as an intern in the Office of Sustainability to become more aware of what I was throwing away. During the challenge, I tried to find new ways to reduce my own carbon footprint, and I discovered that about 90% of my waste was related to food – food packaging, food scraps (like broccoli stems), and food that had gone bad in the refrigerator. I started searching for ways to reduce my food waste, and that’s when I stumbled upon Bokashi composting.

The bokashi system is the ideal food waste solution for the sustainable college student because it’s an odorless form of composting that can take place indoors. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of bokashi composting, explain how you can set up your own system at home, and compare the benefits and drawbacks of the bokashi system in a college setting.


Image from yardfarmaustin.com.

What is Bokashi composting?

In general, composting accelerates the natural decomposition process of organic materials2. Composting is great for the environment because it reduces the amount of waste you send to the landfill and it turns that waste into a useful product.

Now bokashi compost works a little differently than your typical compost pile. “Bokashi” is a Japanese term that means “fermented organic matter,” and the bokashi itself is a dry mixture of bran, molasses, water and “effective microorganisms”3. These microorganisms ferment food scraps without creating a foul-smelling odor.

Basically, the bokashi breaks food down from the inside out and turns waste into really great soil using a much faster process than traditional composting.


Image from static1.1.sqspcdn.com

How to start a Bokashi system

Starting a bokashi system in your own residence hall or apartment is simple!

First, you’ll need to purchase or make your own bokashi composting kit. There are two main components to bokashi composting: an airtight container and the bokashi itself. My bokashi kit was purchased online. A ready-made bokashi kit can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on how many buckets are included, and bokashi microbes cost about $15 per 2 lb bag. Because the kit can be a little expensive, I actually asked for bokashi as a Christmas present to help offset some of the initial set-up costs.

You can also create a DIY bokashi kit using a bucket with a lid as an airtight container, and there are recipes online that can teach you how to make your own bokashi. Buckets cost about $15 and DIY bokashi ingredients cost about $22 for a 50 lb bag (get the recipe here).

Once you’ve got your bokashi composting kit in place, the actual composting process is relatively simple and can be broken down into two stages4.


A typical bokashi system includes at least a bucket and bokashi bran. Image from static1.squarespace.com.

Stage One: Ferment your food scraps.

  1. Start your bokashi compost by placing a small amount of bokashi into the bottom of your bucket.
  2. Add your first layer of food scraps into the bucket and sprinkle a small amount of bokashi on top of the layer.
  3. Press the food scraps down to eliminate air pockets and put the lid back on the bucket.
  4. Repeat this process until your large, airtight bucket is filled to the brim with layers of food scraps and bokashi.
  5. Let the full bucket sit sealed and undisturbed for two weeks.

Stage Two: Neutralize your bokashi compost.

The second stage of bokashi composting turns bokashi into fertile soil. After the food waste has fermented in the bucket it’s very acidic, and it will need to neutralize before it’s safe for plant roots. Ideally, bokashi compost should be buried in a 20 centimeter-deep hole. Then after two to four weeks, you can plant into the bokashi-enriched soil.

Bokashi composting in a college setting: Pros and cons



  • Bokashi composting handles virtually all food wastes, even cheese, dairy, meat, fish, and leftover bones.
  •  The bokashi system is low odor. My bokashi bucket lives in the closet under my stairs, and I really can’t smell anything from the compost at all!
  • Bokashi composting can be done indoors, which is ideal for college students who don’t have the luxury of a backyard.
  • Bokashi composting doesn’t attract insects, not even fruit flies.
  • Bokashi composting doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. While normal composting processes produce CO2, the types of microbes that produce methane can’t survive in the acidic conditions of the bokashi bucket.5
  • Stage two of bokashi composting requires that you bury your waste in a hole in the ground, which might not be feasible for students.

Solution: Bury your bokashi waste in a large indoor or balcony planter. Give your compost to someone who has a backyard. Donate your bokashi compost to a local garden.

  •  Purchasing the bokashi itself is an added expense that will have to be paid somewhat regularly. Even if you make bokashi yourself, you’ll still have to purchase the materials.

Solution: Although you have to purchase ingredients, one batch can last for a long time. You’ll also save money on things like garbage liners and fertilizer, which you’ll use less frequently!

For college students looking for a way to create less waste, the bokashi system is an ideal form of composting because it’s odorless and can be done indoors.

Now even if this blog post hasn’t convinced you to go out and buy a bokashi system, I really encourage you to try and become more aware of your waste and the number of times you’re hauling your trash to the dumpster each month. Take your own personal Zero Waste Week challenge, and keep checking the blog for an in-depth look at the Live Green! team’s experience with the challenge!


Image from goshen.edu.

For more about the Bokashi composting process, check out the links below:

Author: Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement intern
Featured Image: bokashi.com.au

Celebrating Sustainapalooza 2016

Laurelin: Hello, everyone! Madi and I are back to introduce our guest blogger, Lauren!

Madi: Lauren is an Honors student working with the Live Green! Initiative this semester, and we’re very happy to have her help covering Sustainapalooza!

Laurelin: Before we dive into Lauren’s article, we’d first like to take a moment to thank the volunteers, tabling organizations, poster session participants, and GIY station leaders who worked behind the scenes to make Sustainapalooza possible!

Madi: And we’d like to give a special thank you to The Green Umbrella! Their passion and enthusiasm for sustainability were really the driving force behind the entire event!

Laurelin: Now let’s welcome Lauren!


The theme of Sustainapalooza 2016 was “One World, Green World.”

My name is Lauren Young, and I’m so excited to be guest posting on the the Live Green! blog. I am currently a freshman with an Open Option major. As an Honors student, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the First Year Mentors Program, which pairs up students with mentors at the university to participate in research projects. With the help of my mentor, Merry Rankin, I have been doing research on sustainability, writing articles for the newsletter, and attending this year’s Sustainapalooza.

This annual event take place in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union to promote sustainability at Iowa State. Tons of tables, posters, volunteers, food, and crafts are brought in, and anyone is welcome to come.

This was my first year attending and volunteering at Sustainapalooza. I showed up a little before my volunteering shift as the hustle of set up was beginning to die down. I grabbed my name tag and went to my station at the giveaway table. Scanning the room as I waited for the event to start, I looked at all the stands and activities lining the walls of the Great Hall. Each station was manned by smiling volunteers who all looked excited to get started.


Giveaways included energy-saving car chargers and reusable basil planters.

In front of me lay the giveaways to promote sustainability. When an event advertises anything with the word “free,” people are bound to show up – if only for the giveaways. There were energy-saving car chargers and adorable little grow-your-own basil kits. As people starting making their way around the room, I began handing out the giveaways. And I must say, I have never seen grown men get so excited about tiny pots of basil seeds.

Volunteering was fun because it allowed me to see the event from another perspective and interact with the students and faculty members that meandered their way over to my table. When I was done with my shift, I turned in my name tag and started my rounds as a participant this time. My bag started to fill with samples and pamphlets as I discovered all kinds of new things about sustainability.


Volunteers learned how to upcycle old shirts at the T-Shirt Bag GIY station.

I loved learning and smelling all the essential oils that can be used in natural cleaning products and learning how to mend old clothes. These were part of the GIY  (“Green-It-Yourself”), and they included ways to be more green in easy ways you can do yourself.

Of course, what eventually caught my eye, as a typical hungry college student, was the long table full of food. I picked up a reusable plate filled it with delicious and diverse snacks. All of the food featured local and/or healthy ingredients. Armed with some sustenance, I continued exploring.


Sustainaplaooza refreshments featured items with local and/or healthy ingredients. Reusable cutlery and dishware were used, and all food waste and napkins were composted.

One of the focal points of the room was the Green Wall. A crowd of people holding markers gathered around the wall, and visitors were allowed to write on all the different parts of the wall. I spent a few minutes walking around just reading all of the connections, ideas, and commitments people had made for a more sustainable future. It was a really unique way to promote and spread a very sustainable message.

My favorite part of the event was visiting the Clothing Swap GIY station. Tons of lightly used clothes had been donated, and as a fashion lover it was fun shopping through all the treasures. People who donated items could use those as an exchange for different clothes. Food or cash donations to The S.H.O.P. (Students Helping Our Peers), an on-campus student food pantry, could also be used as payment. The various clothing racks included everything from a classic red pea coat to cool retro handbags.

Next I walked through each of the posters and tables representing different organizations from the community. Both of on- and off-campus groups were invited, and it was great to see that such diverse clubs and companies were all tied together through sustainability. I stopped and talked with someone from Happy Strong Healthy, a new student organization at Iowa State. They’ve created a really interesting magazine that promotes personal sustainability through both mental and physical health. After tossing my leftover food into the compost bin, I left the event with a bag full of all-natural laundry detergents and granola bars.

Overall, there was such a fun and positive energy during Sustainapalooza. All ages gathered together to share their experiences and learn more about sustainability. People walked around with their friends laughing and smiling, and I could tell that the event was a blast for everyone that came out. I smiled when I came home and saw my roommate had put a potted basil plant on our windowsill.

Sustainapalooza by the Numbers: 

  • 400+ participants enjoyed Sustainapalooza
  • 363 clothing items were donated to the Sustainapalooza clothing swap
  • 63 volunteers worked behind the scenes to prepare the event
  • 35 on and off-campus organizations and initiatives highlighted their sustainablility efforts and accomplishments through posters and tabling
  • 13 Green Umbrella members worked for months to organize Sustainapalooza
  • 1 amazing event!

The Green Umbrella poses for a picture at the Sustainapalooza Celebrity Wall.

Written by: Lauren Young
Edited by: Madi VanGundy and Laurelin Haas
Photos by: Grace Lee and Lauren Young

For more photos of the event, check out the Live Green! and The Green Umbrella Facebook pages!

DIY Truffles for a More Sustainable Valentine’s Day

Welcome to another Green-It-Yourself post! This week, Madi and I attempted to make two different types of truffles for Valentine’s Day! By making your own chocolate, you can avoid some of that pesky packaging and enjoy a more sustainable holiday!

Madi: We’re back!

Laurelin: I can’t believe that it’s already February, which means that Valentine’s Day is two weeks away now – at the time of writing this blog. So are you someone who likes celebrating Valentine’s Day, Madi?

Madi: I am! I’ve always gotten really excited to celebrate the holiday. Even if I don’t have a significant other to celebrate with, I find that I’ll always get together with my close girlfriends, and we’ll have a good time.

Laurelin: When I was younger, my mother would give my family hearts filled with little candy chocolates, so I always connected Valentine’s Day with family. And I remember back in grade school when we’d make our own little boxes with our own homemade, DIY Valentine’s Day cards and get lots of candy from everyone, so that’s sort of what I associate Valentine’s Day with.

Madi: So we were sort of inspired by this holiday to think about new ways that we could make Valentine’s Day a little more sustainable.

Laurelin: And one way of doing that is actually making your own chocolates. Because if you think about it, the amount of packaging that goes into a box of chocolates is kind of ridiculous. Every single chocolate has its own little wrapper or its own section in a tray, and that’s a lot of plastic that we’re throwing away.

Madi: Granted, there will be some packaging with the different things we’ll buy to make the chocolates – but it’s still a lot less packaging than what would normally come with a box of chocolates.

Laurelin: Right! Although to be honest, I’m not much of a cook. So another way that you can be sustainable this Valentine’s Day is to buy fair trade chocolate. Those chocolates are actually made by small-scale farmers in a more sustainable way.

Madi: Didn’t you give me some fair trade hot chocolate for Christmas this year?  It’s delicious!

Laurelin: I did! I bought it for you from our fair trade store, Worldly Goods, in downtown Ames!  But a lot of grocery stores and department stores carry fair trade products, too. You can also buy fair trade local and sustainable ingredients for food.

Madi: But back to Valentine’s Day – we hope that you spend this Valentine’s Day with your loved ones, whether they’re your significant other or your friends and family. And if you have time, maybe try and make your own chocolates this holiday season. I think they’re more meaningful and from the heart that way.

Laurelin: We’ve looked up a couple of different chocolate recipes, and we’re going to show you how to make two kinds of chocolate at home. And then we encourage you to try it out and share with your special someone(s) this Valentine’s Day!

Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles


Materials (To make 10 truffles)

  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped salted pretzels
  • 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Plate or cookie sheet
  • Microwavable bowl

Step 1: Chop your salted pretzels! I found it easiest to crush the pretzels with the side of a knife before chopping them into smaller pieces. But beware – the pretzels fly everywhere!

Step 2: Measure out your peanut butter, add pretzels, and stir!

Step 3: Place your peanut butter and pretzel mixture into the refrigerator to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 4: Form the peanut butter and pretzel mixture into 1 inch balls. Place the balls on a cookie sheet (or other plate) and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.


Step 5: While your peanut butter balls are in the freezer, measure out a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil into a microwave-safe bowl. Place the bowl into the microwave for 1 minute, and then stir and repeat until mixture is melted and smooth.

Step 6: Remove your peanut butter balls from the freezer and dip them in the melted chocolate. (Note: if chocolate starts to cool and harden, heat it up again in the microwave).  Coat all sides as evenly as possible and place the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls back on the cookie sheet. (Tip: if you have too much chocolate like I did, cut up a banana and dip the pieces in the leftover chocolate for a yummy frozen treat!)


Step 7: Place the cookie sheet back in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours.

Step 8: Take out your peanut butter and pretzel truffles and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by eatingwell.com


Milk Chocolate Truffles



  • 8 oz milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa or 3/4 cup finely chopped almonds or peanuts
  • Medium saucepan or microwavable bowl
  • Bowl

One caveat with this recipe – Make sure you read ingredient lists carefully!  Madi and I thought whipping cream was the same as whipped cream – and we found out when we made the recipe that we were wrong! Our chocolates tasted fine, but they had a strange texture and weren’t easy to roll into balls. So make sure that you purchase whipping cream! 

Step 1: Bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a saucepan, then add butter until melted.

Step 2: Add chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth.

Step 3: Remove the pan from the heat and pour the chocolate into a shallow bowl. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours).

Step 4: Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and cover each ball with your coating of choice! (Ex. Sprinkles, powdered sugar, nuts).

Step 5: Enjoy your milk chocolate truffles!

Recipe inspired by cookingontheside.com


Written by: Laurelin Haas
Edited by: Madisun VanGundy
Photography: Laurelin Haas and Madisun VanGundy

Lip Balm for the New Year

We’re back again with another DIY blog post for your holiday season! If you didn’t get a chance to read our last post, we’re trying out a new, experimental format, which is more like a conversation than a typical article. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Laurelin: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainable New Year’s resolutions because I think New Year’s is a great time to start making life changes – even if sometimes they don’t always work out. But this year, I’m determined to make my resolutions stick, and I’m going to go more waste free.

Madi: Which is why we’re going to show you how to make lip balm at home today. If you’re trying to go waste-free, it’s really important to start making some of your everyday products at home. And they actually seem to be really easy and fun to do!

Laurelin: Not only is it a great way to craft, but by buying things in bulk and making a lot of your products at once, you can save a lot of money, too. And so we thought chapstick would be a perfect first product to try this out on because it’s getting colder and lips are getting significantly drier. And, of course, for New Year’s there’s something special that happens at midnight that you might need chapstick for.

Madi: Right. And you can also use this DIY to refill your EOS eggs!

Laurelin: Yeah, I have a bunch of those just laying around in my bathroom drawers because I don’t want to throw them away, but I also don’t know what to do with them.

Madi: Yeah, me too. It was actually a bit of a hunt trying to find some of the ingredients we needed to make the chapstick! The thing we had the most trouble finding was beeswax. We went to one store first, and we had people running around all over for us

Laurelin: And they only had Burt’s Bees!

Madi: Which isn’t beeswax. Then we went to a different store, and they also didn’t have beeswax. And finally we decided to call a hobby store, and it turns out that they had beeswax.

Laurelin: So pro-tip for the future: If there’s an ingredient that you think might be hard to find in a general store, then call. Call ahead of time, and that will save you money and also reduce your carbon footprint of driving around all over the place trying to find these things.

Madi: But once we had all the ingredients, this lip balm was so easy to make – and fun to do!

Laurelin: I mean, if you can cook even a little bit, you can make these. It’s basically just measuring. It took all of fifteen minutes to make one batch. We made two batches – it took us, like, half an hour.

Madi: We hope you guys like these easy-to-do steps and that you try it out and let us know!


  • Coconut Oil ($7.49)
  • Beeswax (about $7)
  • Peppermint Oil ($1.67)
  • Container (about $1 for two containers – or reuse your old lip balm container for free)
  • Stickers (optional) ($2)
  • Lipstick (optional) (reuse your old lipstick for free)

The total cost of our project was about $26, and with our ingredients we could easily have made at least 32 containers of lip balm! That’s a grand total of about $1.12 per container! Regular lip balms can cost up to $3 per container for a cost savings of almost $2.

Step 1: Put the stickers onto the containers

Step 2: Put 4 tablespoons of beeswax into a bowl, then put 4 tablespoons of coconut oil into the same bowl.

You can choose to use smaller or larger proportions, just make sure you use a 1-1 ratio!

Step 3: Heat the beeswax and coconut oil for 1 minute in the microwave.  Stir.  Then heat the mixture for another minute, or until everything is melted!  Once everything is melted, add a cap full of peppermint.

  • Don’t be afraid to put too much peppermint in!

After you put the peppermint in, heat the mixture for an additional 10 seconds.

Madi’s Tip: Whatever you end up heating the ingredients in, make sure that that has a spout, that way when you pour it into the little chapstick containers, you can pour it right in. Our bowl did not have a spout – whoops – so we just used a spoon to ladle it into the chapstick, but with that we found that it would already start hardening before we got all the mixture in, so definitely make sure you have something with a spout.

Step 4: Pour the liquid mix into little containers, or ladle with a spoon.

Laurelin’s Tip: When you are packaging your lip balm, make sure that it’s fully hardened before you put the lid on, otherwise the lip balm mixture will get into the lid, and then you’ll have lip balm on the lid, and that’s not really what you want.


Step 5: Complete!



Inspired By: DIY | 5 Minute Lip Balm (This YouTuber actually reuses her old EOS lip balm containers! Very sustainable and cost effective!) 

Authors: Laurelin Haas and Madi VanGundy, Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement Interns
Photos: Laurelin Haas


‘Tis the Season for Sustainable Holiday Crafts

The Live Green! team will be rolling out a new DIY series in the next couple of weeks! We’re using a slightly experimental format that reads more like a conversation because we wanted to keep the tone light and fun while also including information that goes beyond a typical DIY post. Let us know your thoughts on this new format in the comments below!

Laurelin: Last Thursday, the Live Green! team got together and made crafts for the MU display.

Madi: Right, and we’re crafting to show people how to be sustainable for the holiday season.

Laurelin: I’m not crafty at all, but I got so into crafting. I was there for three and a half hours straight, but I had so much fun because we listened to music and we ate chocolate. We were using our hands instead of our brains, which is kind of nice since it’s also finals season.

Madi: Yeah, definitely.  I was worried going into it that I wouldn’t be able to do the crafts, but everything was pretty easy to do and turned out really well!

Laurelin: I guess this might sound a little cliche, but it kind of felt like the Live Green! team came together as a family.

Madi: It was a bonding moment, yeah.


The Live Green! team’s awkward family holiday photo

Laurelin: And that gave me an idea, because during the holiday season – like this past Thanksgiving for example – my family and I were together and we’d all come home for the holidays, but we spent the entire break watching TV in the living room while each of us were on our own devices. So we were together, but we didn’t really have any meaningful family time.

Madi: It’s funny you bring that up, because that’s normally how my family is, too. But for Thanksgiving, we all made an effort to put our phones down and play a game with each other. And this year for Christmas, we’re going to try to do something similar to that.

Usually we do a basket exchange – we buy presents and exchange them with people. But this year, we decided to not buy presents, and instead we’re going to have different stations with different things to do. One station is going to potentially be a crafting area, another is going to be a game area –

Laurelin: Wait, seriously?

Madi: Yeah, seriously! We actually started talking about this through a huge family group text. And my family’s also really musical, so maybe we will do a music station, too. What about you?

Laurelin: I have two sisters who are both really artsy, so I think they would jump on a crafting night. But being home this holiday season, I’m really excited to relax, for one, and also spend more time with my family. And I think introducing things like crafting nights is a fun way to stay together.

Madi: Yeah, and then you have cute little decorations that come out of it.

Laurelin: Exactly. So, to wrap things up, today we’re going to share with you an easy –

Madi: Very, very, very easy –

Laurelin: Tutorial on how to make a pinecone fairy. And if you think that your family could spend some time crafting this holiday season, then check it out and see if it works for you!


  • Pinecones (all sizes and shapes)
  • Large beads
  • Acorn caps
  • Hard paper
  • Leaf stencil
  • Shredded ribbon (or string)
  • Markers
  • Hot glue gun
  1. Glue the bead onto the top of the acorn.

2. Glue the shredded ribbon onto the head.

3. Glue the acorn cap on top of the hair.

4. Trace and cut out a leaf shape. We cut the leaf in half to make two symmetrical wings.  After your cut the wings, glue them onto the back of the acorn.

5. Draw two eyes, and a smile!

Your pinecone fairy is now complete!


For more ideas on how to get crafty this holiday season, visit our Season’s GREENings Pinterest page!  

DIY Inspiration: Willodel.com
Authors: Laurelin Haas and Madisun VanGundy, Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement Interns
Images: Laurelin Haas

A Look Inside the Tiny House Movement

On a typical Tuesday after a long day of work and school, I’m always ready for some relaxation. But when I join my roommates on our comfy couch, we always run into the same argument: What are we going to watch?

As my roommate, Zoe, flipped through the channels, we were unable to agree on a show until my sister suggested, “Tiny House Big Living!”

Zoe appeared skeptical, but she changed the channel over to the program anyway. As we watched the episode, Zoe was turned from a skeptic into a believer.

“I can totally picture myself living in a tiny house at some point in my life,” said Zoe.

“Yeah, I would live in one after I graduate.  It would be the same as paying for an apartment for four years, only I would have a tiny house at the end of it!” my sister agreed.

As my roommates continued to gush about tiny houses, I realized I wanted to learn more about the movement and the benefits of downsizing!  And the idea wouldn’t leave my mind until I sat down to write a blog post about it! Over the course of my research, I learned that tiny houses are an engaging, educational topic that not only represent sustainability, but also inspire people to lead more sustainable lives!


What is a Tiny House?

Today, more and more people are joining the tiny house movement across the country.

A tiny house is exactly what it sounds like.  The average size of a tiny house is around 200 square feet. To put that into perspective, the average size of a normal house in the United States is 2,164 square feet. That is 10 times the size of a tiny house!

Why are people choosing to live in a smaller space?  According to Ellen Sturm Niz, a writer for Country Living, “Some homeowners have discovered a small house actually leads to a simpler yet fuller life, connecting them with family, friends, and nature while freeing them from mortgages.”1

For young adults who’ve just graduated from college, a tiny house is an affordable alternative to purchasing a traditional home and more economical in the long run than renting an apartment. Millennials are embracing the tiny house trend because Do-It-Yourself tiny homes can cost as little as $10,000 to $15,000 to construct – and when compared to a single-family residence with a 30-year mortgage, tiny houses are an affordable upfront investment without an ongoing monthly payment.2

“The small house is more affordable, easier to maintain, and you own it,” writes Laura Schaefer.3 “Every payment you make to pay back your home loan goes to you – not a landlord. As young people get creative and look toward the benefits of simpler living – the small house is having a moment.”


5 Reasons to Join the Tiny House Movement

Living in a tiny house many not be for everyone, but there are lots of benefits to downsizing in general that can help you live a happier, more sustainable life. ABC News4 has created a list of the top 5 reasons to join the tiny house movement:

Bookshop_Nice2_5251. Cut the Clutter: Today, consumers are often encouraged to buy products they don’t need or even have space for in their home. Living in a smaller space encourages homeowners to think carefully before every purchase. In a tiny house, “every item has a specific purpose and place, and you own nothing that you don’t use, need or want” (ABC News). There is no room for clutter in a tiny house – because otherwise you wouldn’t have any space to move around in!

2. Spend Less Time Cleaning: Cleaning a typical two-story, four bedroom house from top to bottom can take hours! That’s valuable time that you could spend enjoying a good book, taking a walk outside, or doing virtually anything else. Downsizing to a smaller living space can cut cleaning time dramatically. Compare cleaning two to three small rooms to the time you’d spend cleaning 6 to 8 large rooms!

Money Pile 00 dollar bills

3. Save Money: Living in a tiny home can save money in many different ways. Homeowners don’t need to spend nearly as much money on heating, cooling, property taxes, or home maintenance. Transitioning from 2,000 square feet to 200 square feet can reduce utility fees by at least 90%! Today, the average household spends around $200 a month on utilities; by living in a tiny house, that figure could be reduced to only $20 a month!

together-enjoying-nature-2363704. Improve Quality of Life: When homeowners shed their “stuff” and begin living small, quality of life and overall happiness improves (ABC News). These homeowners no longer feel weighed down by all the frivolous items they used to own, they no longer have a huge mortgage, and they spend less money on cleaning and maintaining their home, which allows more time and money for hobbies and other leisure activities!

maxresdefault5. Save the Planet: Living in a tiny house can drastically reduce your carbon footprint! Tiny houses use less lumber in construction and they also use less electricity and produce less Carbon Dioxide emissions! According to ABC News, “Tiny homes are green homes, as they use less energy, produce less waste, and consume less resources (in the form of products that are no longer being purchased) than larger homes.”

Overcoming the Challenges of Tiny Living

Some common challenges that homeowners face when living in a tiny house include: organization, letting go of possessions, and finding new ways to entertain. ABC News has come up with creative solutions to these tiny house problems!


1. Organization Made Easy. Organization is key in a small space, otherwise your tiny home can end up looking like a cluttered closet – and no one wants to spend time in a cluttered closet! By effectively maximizing every nook and cranny, it’s possible to organize even the smallest of spaces. Buzzfeed has put together a list of 31 Tiny House Hacks to Maximize Your Space (which you can view here).

2. De-cluttering Can Be Freeing. It can be difficult to decide what possessions to take with you into your new tiny space, especially if you have a large abundance of sentimental knick knacks. But de-cluttering is part of the “freeing” process! It can feel as if a weight’s been lifted off your chest when you learn to let go of items you no longer need. And if you’re really worried about keeping all your possessions, you can always rent a storage locker for some extra space.

3. Become a Creative Host(ess).  Entertaining in a tiny home does have limits.  It can be difficult to fit your twenty closest friends into your tiny house for a party.  As a solution, move your gatherings outdoors!  Cold weather doesn’t have to end the fun – you can still plan to do winter-themed activities like sledding, skiing, or building snowmen.

Author: Madi VanGundy, Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement Intern
Editor: Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Campus and Community Engagement Intern

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[G]reen [I]t [Y]ourself : Holiday Edition

Hello! Welcome to the Live Green! blog: All Things Green. Check out our blog for cool happenings with all things sustainable.

Since the holidays are upon us, we thought we’d share some tips and tricks to spicing up your holiday decor in an eco-friendly way. From gifts to decorations, get easy-to-follow directions on how to GIY (Green It Yourself) this holiday season!

Ornament Wreath:


What you’ll need:

  • Old ornaments (50-70)
  • Wire hanger
  • Hot glue
  • Ribbon for bow (optional)

Directions:ornament steps

  1. Shape wire hanger to look similar to a circle (doesn’t have to be perfect).
  2. IMPORTANT: Secure the metal hook to the ornament with hot glue.
  3. Thread ornaments onto the hanger.
  4. When you have put all the ornaments you want, twist the top of the hanger and close it. Secure bow with a bread tie or tape.

Revamped Ornaments


What you’ll need:

  • Old ornaments
  • Twine, yarn, or ribbon
  • Hot glue


  1. At the top of your ornament, start
    creating a path of glue with the hot glue gun.
  2. Start wrapping the twine/yarn/ribbon on the top of the hot glue path.
  3. Continue creating a hot glue pat and following on top of it with the twine, yarn, or ribbon.
  4. Thread ribbon through the top hook and you’re done!


All Natural Ornaments


What you’ll need:

  • Pinecones
  • Ribbon, yarn, or twine


  1. Secure a bow on top of the pinecone with hot glue, or tie yarn/twine around the top and string from your tree!

Can-Do Holiday Gifts


What you’ll need:

  • Any size of can (15 oz works well)
  • Fabric (cut up old flannels or other Christmas-colored fabrics)
  • Hot glue
  • Wire or ribbon
  • Nail and hammer or drill


  1. Take labels off of the cans.
  2. Drill a hole on both sides of the can.
  3. Cover your fabric of choice with glue and wrap around  the can (have fabric overlap so the can doesn’t show at all).
  4. Thread the wire or ribbon through. If you use wire, twist end.  If you use ribbon, tie in a knot or bow.
  5. Fill with organic/fair trade goodies to share with your friends!