Reusable Hand Warmers & Hot/Cold Packs

Simple solutions to single-use hot/cold packs and hand warmers are available in most kitchens. These reusable options reduce trash and the need to continuously spend money on disposable, one-time-use products such as heat wraps and instant hand warmers. Additional benefits include mobility (no cords), repairability (no electronics), and enjoyablity (no condensation or leaks).  

  1. Choose a natural filler such as rice, dried beans, lentils, etc. (Optional: Adjust the aroma by adding dried herbs or experimenting with different fillers. I use dried lavender petals.)

  2. Find pack materials (worn-out long sock or salvaged cloth & thread/string/ribbon).

  3. Make pack, fill and close.

  4. Microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time or chill in the freezer. Use as you would with a heating pad, heat wrap, hot water bottle, ice pack or hand warmer.


If using a sock, fill. Tie closed using the long cuff.

If using cloth, fold a square shaped piece into quarters and cut into quarter-circle. Unfold, put filling in center. Tie closed using a string or ribbon.


If sewing, fold cloth in half with the inside facing out. Sew two sides, then turn right-side out. Fill with filler. Stitch the remaining side closed.

Homemade Stocks & Broths

Stocks and broths made in the home kitchen are more flavorful than even the most expensive, store-bought brands. Since stock is made by simmering bones and broth is made by simmering vegetables or meat, making them at home can also be less wasteful.



Basic Stock & Broth Recipe

Collect equal portions of carrot, onion and celery tops and peels in the freezer. Add mushrooms stems for vegetable broth or add leftover bones and/or meat for chicken, turkey or beef stock.


When ready to cook, fill a large pot or slow cooker two-thirds full with collected ingredients. Cover with water and add bay leaf.  If using bones, add a splash of vinegar (up to 1 tablespoon). Salt and pepper as desired. Simmer, covered on low for 6-24 hours. (Only simmer 1 hour for vegetable broth.) Strain.


Use as a soup base, liquid for cooking or a warm drink. Refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for longer storage.


Low-Waste Thanksgiving

Only two firsthand accounts of the first Thanksgiving were ever recorded. Although the pilgrims and Wampanoag people likely did not feast on wild turkey according to these sources, one can safely assume no paper napkins or disposable baking pans were present. Embrace this no-waste tradition by reducing waste at your next Thanksgiving celebration.



Bring your own bags. Bring bags for carrying groceries home as well as a water-resistant bag for the turkey to avoid any new plastic or paper bags from being used.

Buy unpackaged produce items. Choose loose onions, potatoes and other unpackaged produce over packaged ones.

Shop loose bulk. Items such as wild rice, nuts, and spices tend to be sold in packages with larger portions than needed, leading the remaining contents to expire before being used again. Buy exactly the amount needed by shopping the loose bulk section of the store.

Reduce drink packaging waste. Choose recyclable containers (glass is preferred), make juices from concentrates, and avoid plastic bottles--especially water bottles. Take it one step further by choosing returnable containers such as beer growlers and glass milk bottles from the local micro brewery, liquor store, and/or grocery store.


Rely on reusable items. Use what you own, use what others own (borrow) or acquire second-hand items (ARC/Goodwill, local consignment, Craigslist, NextDoor, etc.). Any of these options can help allow for enough dishes, glasses, silverware, table linens and cloth napkins so that all single-use items can be avoided.

Decorate with nature’s bounty. Apples, pumpkins, corn, squash, sage, nuts, leaves, acorns, and pinecones add beauty and add sense of “plenty” to the Thanksgiving table. Natural aromas can also be used to add to the ambiance.



Refuse single-use items. Aluminum foil and plastic oven bags are unnecessary and create waste. Bake the turkey and allow it to rest without using these products. Simply bake uncovered and then drape with a cloth kitchen towel as it rests. Steam will escape more easily, allowing the skin to stay crispy instead of becoming soggy under the stream-trapping foil.

Make ice. Avoid a plastic bag by making ice at home.

Reconsider wasteful traditions. Leaving skin on the potatoes tastes delicious, adds nutrition and simplifies preparations. Eliminating unpopular dishes from the menu also reduces food waste and saves time.

Use real baking pans. Ditch disposable foil baking pans and resolve to clean real baking pans instead. 



Use reusable food storage options. When storing leftovers, avoid single-use products like plastic wrap, zip-top bags, and aluminum foil. (Use the Food Storage Basics guide for ideas.)

Make turkey stock. Keep vegetable scraps and turkey bones for making homemade stock or broth. Collect scraps in the freezer until ready to cook using this recipe.

Freeze leftovers. Reduce food waste by allowing food to last longer.

Eat the edible decor.

Compost. Compost organic waste using residential organics recycling or a backyard compost bin.


Natural aromas of seasonal foods, herbs and spices create comfort and coziness. The best way to make use of aromas is to release and intensify them through heat. Natural aromas are favorable over other aromatic options in terms of safety (chemical fragrances), cost (essential oils), and waste (packaged products).

Choose your aromatics. The least wasteful option is to use ingredients destined for the compost as well as ones that can be dehydrated for reuse. Citrus peels, apple peels & cores, spent vanilla bean pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, evergreens, the apple forgotten in back of the fridge, or even a dried out orange are great options. All can be used in any condition as long as mold is removed.

Heat. Place aromatics in a pot or slow cooker. Cover with water. Simmer on low. Occasionally refill with water until finished enjoying the aroma.

Dehydrate. After use, drain the water and pull out easily dehydrated items such as cinnamon sticks, orange peels, cloves and vanilla bean pods. As long as the ingredients are completely dry when stored, they can be reused again and again as aromatics until they have lost their desired intensity. Simply heat them in water to enjoy again.

Suggested Aromatic Blends:

  • Apple/Cinnamon/Vanilla
  • Orange/Cinnamon/Clove/Cranberry
  • Evergreen Sprigs/Mint/Cinnamon
  • Ginger/Cinnamon/Vanilla
  • Orange/Cinnamon/Vanilla
  • Grapefruit/Orange/Lemon/Vanilla
  • Lavender/Vanilla
  • Lemon/Rosemary/Vanilla
Dehydrate and reuse aromatics by simmering in water.

Dehydrate and reuse aromatics by simmering in water.

Recommended Reading:

Environmental Working Group (2010). “3,163 Ingredients Hide Behind the Word ‘Fragrance.’”