How to Use Trash to Wrap Presents: The Ecuador Edition

Before you throw out all that wasted, extravagant Christmas gift wrapping…spare a thought for a)the environment and b) your pocket when it comes to future gift wrapping needs…and follow this creative and eco friendly DIY gift wrapping tips 🙂

Kathryn M. McCullough

Whether you live in Ecuador or not, don’t spend big bucks on gift wrapping this holiday season.  I promise you don’t have to.

In fact, you can have more fun and make a  more lasting impression on friends and family by packaging from trash you have cluttering your house—stuff that can be up-cycled into simply smashing wrapping.

Did you know that over the Christmas holiday Americans generate 25% more trash than they do on an average week?  It’s sad but true.

However, if you wrap with trash to begin with, you not only save money by not buying paper and ribbon, you can help make the planet itself a happier place, as well.

Last year I did a similar post that focused on using recycled trash available in US.  This year I’ll use scraps I’ve found in Ecuador, also.

(Note: In Cuenca we don’t have mail delivered to our home, so here I replace…

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4 phrases I can’t stand right now….

Ever since embarking on my road to recovery (a.k.a stop shopping like a maniac) I have become slightly addicted to making lists. Not lists of grocery items or to-do lists (although I still make those as needed) however lists about myself.

So I have dedicated this blog post, and no doubt future posts, about self reflection and what I’ve learned about myself.  I can’t stand the four phrases below!  And where I always endeavour to keep things positive, I had to make a mention today about these annoying phrases.  Now, I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone who uses these; and perhaps I have just been more attentive over the last few months that I have only started to notice these more and more.  However, I have collated in my mind a few little catch phrases that seem to rub me the wrong way of late.

I noticed these ‘sayings’ coming up during the conversations I was having with certain people and perhaps it was the fact that I kept hearing them regularly, over and over again that it has only now drawn me to this conclusion.   Maybe if I had only heard it once, it really wouldn’t have annoyed me at all…we’ll never know now.  I know certain people say these words as a simple means of conversation or placating; however, not sure if it’s just me again, whilst talking about my d&m issues, the following phrases seemed to trivialise and even patronise my feelings and issues somewhat (just in my opinion.)  But anyhoo…the phrases I can’t stand include:

Don’t stress  – (Well, why thank for that helpful suggestion.  Don’t stress! If only it were that easy.  But clearly, if I am stressed, there would be a reason for it; so perhaps I need to find the solution to the root cause of my stress rather then ‘not stressing’.
Learn from my mistakes – (Why? I need to make my own or I’ll never learn.  And anyway, making mistakes is all about living.  So if I were to ‘learn’ from your mistakes that essentially means I would not be true to myself and carry out the things I want to…in fear of making mistake and rather just take your word for it? No thanks)
It’s much of a muchness – (WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?! I was asking someone’s opinion about what I should do about a certain something at work and that was there response?? Thanks for your input Sally)

Epic Fail – (A new phrase that seems to be sweeping the vocabulary of people near and far…this really seems like a phrase that should only be used in comical moments.  Whilst discussing the trial and tribulations of my financial woes…EPIC FAIL…is not a sentiment I wish to respond or relate to?!

And that concludes my list of words/phrases I can’t quite stand at the moment 🙂


Weaning off temptation

In an attempt to ward off temptation I cancelled all my fashion magazines a long time ago; however I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this little gem!

How I do miss my frankie, oyster, yen, ruush…..oh the list goes on.

It was always a luxury for me to be able to purchase any copy of these coveted fashion magazines (bibles).  I remember in my early adult years, struggling through university and paying my weekly bills; being able to purchase a fashion mag was such a treat.  I would take a time out, grab my favourite snacks, a big cup of tea and spend hours fawning over these precious pages.  The glossy, bright pictures, depicting images and a lifestyle I desired.

Times have changed now.  Some people read these magazines as an escape, catch up on trends, but for me, it was always more than that.  I couldn’t look at a magazine without later amassing an impossible ‘must have’ list of clothing and accessories.  So you see, it was imperative that I ward of the temptation by no longer subscribing or buying any further copies.  It was hard.  I looked forward to seeing what the next yen, Frankie or Ruush instalment would bring. However, I knew I had to change my perspective to change my habits.

After 2 years of no magazines, it has greatly helped in curbing my compulsive shopping addiction and assisted in increasing my savings balance.  Maybe one day I will be able to pick up a copy of my old fav and be able to browse through the pages without developing that sense of excitement and also anxiousness, when I see something I adore.  Something I would have convinced myself I needed.  I aim to one day be able to appreciate the images for the beauty and art it holds, rather than a tool that fuelled my shopping addiction.

To some this was a simple magazine filled with fashion images, but to me, it was nothing but temptation.


Ethical Fashion for the Australian Green Goddess: Book Review

1475849_10151783883746921_1695758926_nI recently stumbled across this pocket sized bible of Ethical Fashion and wished I had found this sooner. 

The authors of this book, Helen Coates and Jenny Leach, have put a lot of effort into creating a handy, user friendly and practical guide to ‘Ethical Fashion’. This handy directory, chronicles 100’s and 100’s of ethical and sustainable fashion brands, locations and stockists.  It also covers fast facts and tips, raising awareness of the ethical issues surrounding clothing manufacturing and commending the brands that are produced without exploiting the environment, animals and humans.

For example, did you know that the processing of a typical piece of cotton clothing has undergone chemical treatment amounting to a third of it’s weight worth of pesticides, bleaches, chemical fertilisers and other poisons.  This processing is so harmful to both humans and the environment due to the fact that these fertilisers and chemicals run into streams and oceans killing natural wildlife and thousands of workers (mostly in developing nations rife with poor human rights and working conditions) die annually due to chemical poisoning.  This fact definitely made me think twice about purchasing a cotton t-shirt in the future.

I am definitely not here to preach…only share the information I have found.  The issues and resolution for ethical fashion is a slow moving wheel, involving many moving parts in the process. And I am not naïve to think that due to me not buying a cotton t-shirt, I am solving this problem.  However I do believe raising awareness will improve this issue.  In time, by letting the huge retailers out there know that consumers are becoming more and more aware of these issues, it will lead to, even force, brands to pay attention and start focusing on ethical KPI’s.  Consumers will soon demand this as part of the brand offering. Just like when health conscious individuals and trends eventually forced food giants like McDonalds and KFC to focus on healthier alternatives (brands that people said would never cater to that market segment), clothing brands will soon not be able to ignore the voice of their consumers screaming out to produce ethically sustainable fashion.

I know one of the biggest challenges I faced when it came to finding ethically sourced brands, was time and access to information.  I started contacting all the key brands that I purchased from and found that it was a very slow and ambiguous process to finding out information regarding ‘how’, ‘where’ and ‘who’ produced their products.  Not too mention, and let’s face it, buying ethically sourced products can be expensive and time consuming.  However, this little book has made it so much easier for me to commit to buying ethical products when and where I can.  It resources a large directory of local brands I had no idea about…that were only a short drive or fingertips away (all hail online shopping).

I recommend a copy for anyone out there who is keen to build their awareness on these issues and also have a quick reference guide to their surrounding ethical traders.

Where you can purchase your copy:

Fashion and the impact of your consumption.

“Consumption consists of people spending money they don’t have to buy goods they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” – Australian economist Clive Hamilton


When I see articles like the one published on the young fashion entrepreneurs and founders of Bib & Tuck, , it drives me even more to pursue sustainable choices in fashion, but also in my life as a whole now.  Researching more and more on consumerism and the impact that an individual’s consumption has on society at a global scale and the impact it can also reek  on a personal level…I am becoming more and more determined to not only turn a new leaf, so to speak, and focus on my consumption however, to also contribute and reverse the impact I would have no doubt caused. 

You only need to look at some of my previous blogs to see that I have gone astray in conscious, sustainable and down right normal behaviours in fashion and spending.  I feel embarrassed and foolish to say the least and want to make an influential change in my behaviour.

As with many world issues, it always seems so distant to the reality of our daily lives.  However from just some, tip of the iceberg research, the below facts show just how devastating personal consumption is and the effects:

  • Freshwater withdrawals have tripled over the last half-century and demand for freshwater is increasing by 64 bili-d9de4abd4b30bedc99d3c5a5ec5a6510-Citarum River.Indonesialion cubic meters annually.
  • Calculations show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.
  • Bangladesh has about 4,500 garment workers, behind only China as the world’s biggest clothing exporter.
  • Reported incidents of 2,400 people fainting in 2011 at Cambodian shoe and clothing factories have been attributed in part to poor ventilation and malnutrition. According to the Cambodian Coalition for Apparel Workers, minimum wage in Cambodia is about $66 a month, barely half of what’s necessary to meet the most basic human needs.
  • 12 percent of the world’s population lives in North America and Western Europe and accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, but a third of humanity who live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa account for only 3.2 percent.
  • Seven hundred gallons of water are used to produce one T-shirt while 800 million people across the globe live without water (Bib & Tuck  –

For me it’s not about turning my back on what I love however having an understanding of what the impact was of my fashion choices and how to fix it, supporting brands that support sustainable and eco production and also contribute in some way to reducing my own consumption and reducing/reversing my global footprint.

So far…the efforts I have undertaken include:

  • Started selling my ridiculously large wardrobe to reduce the size but ultimately, to raise funds to donate to relevant  charities and also to utilise towards establishing a more sustainable lifestyle (i.e. purchased a sewing machine to start embarking on DIY projects rather than buying a new item each and every time I want something)
  • As above, planned some DIY clothing projects that not only keeps my busy and creative, allows me to create my own trends and clothes rather than purchasing.  I read somewhere that the average American purchases 64 new clothing items per year.  Shockingly mine would probably be double this, triple even…I am determined to reduce my unnecessary consumption.
  • Attended DA meetings and counselling.  As mentioned, for me, there are also personal issues with regards to my consumption and spending behaviour.  I am attempting to also manage this pro actively and understand the physiological drivers behind my behaviour.
  • Contacted preferred brands and asking them about their views and activities relating to free trade and sustainability. You only have to google child slave labour to get an idea of previous brands that have come under the radar in regards to the support or disregard to child labour practices.  If anything, I wanted to become a more informed shopper when I decide to spend my dollars, ensuring I am not indirectly supporting these practices to.  There is so much information out there now that we can no longer claim ignorance to these issues.
  • Donating to (my goal is $1000 by Jan 2014)
  • Started this blog to share my story


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