• Jennifer Scales

HOW “HANDMADE” MAKES US HAPPY… and Supports Sustainability

Every year, as we head into the holiday season, I wonder how this time has become so stressful. While listening to my body tell me how we have a natural tendency for hibernation, I let my mind wander to what the beginning of winter might have looked like for me in pre-industrial times.


With the harvest safely stored and nothing more to do in the fields until spring, I would probably sit by the fire in the early evening and knit socks or mend tools… Of course, I am aware that this is a totally romanticized image. Yet somehow, it resonates with me.



HANDMADE vs STORE-BOUGHT


When I was a kid wearing a carnival costume that my mum had made for me (long before Halloween was a thing in Germany), I didn’t really appreciate it. At the time I thought my friends with the store-bought costumes were so much cooler.


Today, I bake my own sour-dough bread and love sewing my own clothes whenever I can find the time. I wonder if this appreciation of homemade products is a result of getting older or if it comes with the age we live in as a defiant response to consumerism. I certainly see a lot more passion for DIY and self-sufficiency as people strive to live more sustainably.


Creating, crafting, and repairing doesn’t only give us a new appreciation for the things that surround us, but it can also be a great hobby and an impactful way of creating a more eco-conscious lifestyle.



 

Sustainable shopping made simple

 


HOW MAKING THINGS AT HOME CAN HELP THE PLANET


But don’t worry, you don’t have to be super crafty or spend hours every day to make a difference. There are so many simple things you can start with:


  1. Cooking at home: cooking from scratch isn’t only one of the best ways to ensure you and your family are eating healthy, but it also saves a lot of energy and waste. Look at how much packaging and plastic there is in ready meals or take-out portions.

  2. Crafting gifts: How often do you buy a present for someone who “has everything”? How about instead of desperately shopping for something they probably won’t use, you make something yourself? If you have kids, involve them and replace a stressful and wasteful shopping day with a fun family activity.

  3. Sewing and mending: The best remedy for fast fashion is to sew your own clothes. After having spent 10 hours carefully constructing your own pair of jeans, you will think twice about how they can be sold for 20$. I realize that being your own tailor is not for everybody, but mending clothes is a very learnable, useful skill that can keep fabrics from landfills and your favorite piece in your wardrobe.

  4. DIY cleaners: This doesn’t only save plastic, energy, and money; it also reduces your exposure to harmful chemicals. Did you know that you can make powerful cleaning agents from household ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, or orange peel? A quick Google search will show you countless possibilities.

  5. Making your own cosmetics: There is also a trend to make your own cosmetics and personal care products. From 2-ingredient homemade deodorant to cooking soaps (which is expert level), there are a lot of fun ways to replace the content of your bathroom cabinet.


If this is not your idea of leisure time, however, you don’t have to do all of this yourself. Handmade and sustainable options are getting more and more popular, and you can find them everywhere.





SHOPPING HANDMADE


I started thinking about the appeal of handmade products when I researched a Korean brand of solid shampoo for inclusion in the askBelynda plugin. ERIGERONS shampoo balls are all handmade from natural ingredients, and the fact that they are slightly irregular in shape and not one of them looks like the other just adds to their beauty.


I also fell in love with their plastic-free packaging that’s made from birch wood. Not only is it an adorable box that makes the solid shampoo a perfect gift, but it also looks like the perfect base for my next crafts project.



It's great that these days, you don’t necessarily have to choose between handmade and bought. You can buy handmade items, even (or especially) when shopping online.


If you want to get suggestions for sustainable alternatives the next time you shop on Amazon, including handmade products like the ERIGERONS shampoo balls, simply download the free askBelynda Chrome extension. It only takes a minute!



 

Jennifer Scales is a photo artist and train travel enthusiast. When she is not vetting companies for askBelynda, she spreads her love for sustainable travel by capturing the beauty of nature seen through the train window.

Check out her website Landscape in Motion and follow Jennifer Scales | Fine Art on Instagram to see her artwork.

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