Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Bonfires, and How To Live A Low-Impact/Zero Waste Autumn

Autumn is such a lovely, calm season to sit outside with a blanket near a fire or to cuddle up inside your warm home with a good book. It’s also a great season to learn mindfulness, especially in the area of sustainable living- as even the trees are providing us with compost cover.

As I’ve been enjoying autumn, I’ve been leisurely reevaluating some seasonal trends and their sustainability or lack-of. Here are some simple ideas for living a more sustainable autumn. 🙂





When I used to work at Yankee Candle Company, the big selling point of our candle quality was that we sold only paraffin wax candles. They last a lot longer than soy or vegetable-base candles because paraffin is synthetic- and a by-product of the petroleum industry. Paraffin wax isn’t something you want to breath, as candles containing it often emit small amounts of  formaldehyde, and aceteldhyde.

The solution? Soy or beeswax are found to be much safer– and, won’t cause the spread of soot to the walls of your home. It is best the candle isn’t labeled as a blend (i.e. “soy blend”) due to the fact that it could contain only a minimal amount of soy wax for promotional purposes.

You can purchase soy candles online, or make them yourself. Beeswax candles can often be purchased at your local health food store or at a local bee farm shop.


Pumpkin Spice Lattes

The U.S. disposes of around 6 billion Starbucks cups yearly. That obviously doesn’t account for all the paper or plastic coffee cups that come with coffee from McDonalds, Scooters, and many local coffee shops. Starbucks is working on a compostable cup design, but so far so one has been successful in creating a durable enough cup to hold hot coffee without at least a little bit of plastic lining. This is a problem- not just because we have all of that plastic and paper that is filling our landfills, but also because drinking out of plastic lets chemicals into our bodies that we don’t want in there. Also, I personally am not interested in a compostable cup as the solution because many people do not or cannot compost their trash.

The solution? Get yourself a ceramic travel mug for hot drinks, or use a glass jar for cold drinks.  There is often a 10 cent discount if you bring your own cup to most coffee shops. I like using mason jars because they have the ounces on the side and that makes it easier for the barista. Plus, if you’re barista likes you, they may just fill up your 32-ounce mason jar with a vanilla latte when you only paid for a 12-ounce one! No promises, but it’s happened to me.

Another note: the ingredients of Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte aren’t only terribly unhealthy, but are also bad for the environment because of all the dairy. Instead, try making it at home with a vegan recipe like this one. You’ll be protesting the suffering of milk cows, and you’ll be able to have your favorite latte without having to leave the comfort of your home.


Bonfires/ Smores

Use dry unwrapped logs for your bonfire, instead of buying the stuff that’s wrapped in plastic. Paper scraps or twigs found in a park or your backyard make good kindling, so there is no need to buy lighter fluid-which is often petroleum based.

Making smores pretty much always cause quite a bit of waste due to the packaging of every ingredient. But, you can cut down on the landfill trash in some simple ways by buying chocolate bars wrapped in compostable paper instead of plastic, or by making homemade graham crackers.




This holiday is surprisingly great for those who want to cook more sustainably, or start eating more plant-based. So many Thanksgiving dishes are already based around plants- pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, jellied cranberries, stuffing, and more. Subtract the turkey, and you’re already helping the planet out.

From an environmental standpoint (or an ethical one, for that matter), cooking a turkey isn’t a good choice. On average, cooking one 16-lb turkey releases 32 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. That varies by state. My state, being in the Midwest and being primarily coal-dependent, the average emission is even higher: 47 lbs of CO2 per turkey cooked. To give some perspective on the environmental impact of the plant-based dishes, a single serving of steamed vegetables causes only about a 0.4 lb emission of CO2 , on average, into the environment.

Some small and easy changes to make your thanksgiving more sustainable:

  • substitute coconut milk for condensed milk in pumpkin pie
  • in biscuits or pies, give Earth Balance vegan butter a try
  • substitute soymilk for cream in your mashed potatoes- it’s thick, creamy, and ethical!
  • opt for canned cranberries, as the metal cans are infinitely recyclable
  • use compostable cutlery if you have a big gathering and not enough silverware



Last but not leaves 😉 compost your leaves! Fall is a great time to begin composting, as the massive amounts of leave falling can all be collected and composted with food scraps in your back yard. Now composting won’t really take place during winter- the pile will freeze if you live somewhere that experiences snow in the winter- but it will begin or resume it’s biodegrading once spring warmth returns 🙂




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