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The Climate Connection: DIY green (and clean!) holiday gifts
The Climate Connection

The Climate Connection: DIY green (and clean!) holiday gifts

  • Updated

Supplies for DIY cleaning gift sets. 

For Napans who enjoy holiday gift-giving with family and friends, but quail at the amount of trash and plastic packaging it generates, Gwyneth McKay has a solution that is both green — and clean.

“For years I’ve been making my three adult children ‘Cleaning Kits,’ a large box of home-made, environmentally-friendly cleaning products,” said McKay, an architectural designer and long-time Napa resident. The laundry detergent is a huge favorite, and even their friends ask for it.”

McKay attributes her interest in green cleaning products to her parents, who were deeply socially and environmentally concerned.

“My mother, Meg McKay, is my great inspiration in what has become a lifelong practice of environmental awareness. She used to have a big block of castile soap on the kitchen sink that she’d rub with the sponge to wash dishes. When I became a mother and a householder, I wanted cleaning products that were economical, but I also had a passionate desire for my children to inherit a world that was healthy and safe.”

Over time, McKay discovered economical, simple-to-make recipes for cleaning and grooming products made with ingredients that don’t use as much plastic in their packaging.

“Reusing spray bottles for the cleaning sprays agrees with my zero-plastic ethics,” she said. “It’s important to look at the type of plastic used to package the recipe ingredients and make sure that they can be recycled locally.”

McKay is not alone in her concern about the increasing presence of plastics that are produced from fossil fuels. The US, with 4% of the world’s population, generates over 17% of the world’s plastic waste. Plastics contribute to climate change from cradle to grave and impact public health at every step, from emissions associated with manufacturing to polluting microplastics in the water (

So this year, she urges everyone to do their friends and family –and the planet — a favor by gifting them with greener cleaning and personal care products. Gwyneth McKay has shared three of her recipes below. For others please visit the Napa Climate NOW! website at

Always-In-Demand Laundry Detergent

2 (4 oz.) bars castile soap in recyclable paper

2 lbs. baking soda

2 (3.6 lbs.) boxes Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda

10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is a popular option)

Finely grate the castile soap. A Cuisinart with a grating blade does the job quickly and well.

Combine all ingredients (this can be done in the Cuisinart with a mixing blade). You might want to wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.

Add 1/4 cup per load of laundry. This can also be used for laundry pre-treatment.

Kitchen and Bath Cleaning Spray

1 part ammonia (lemon ammonia adds a more pleasant scent)

1 part distilled vinegar

1 part rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol

Re-use an empty spray bottle.

Hand and Body Lotion

(McKay recommends if you can’t find these ingredients locally.)

1/4C coconut oil

1/8C shea butter

1/8C cocoa butter

2-4 Tbsp. sweet almond oil

5-10 drops of essential oils of your choice

Warm the coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter in a double boiler until melted. Blend in sweet almond oil and essential oils.

Keep the lotion in a wide-mouthed jar; it will solidify somewhat when cool—like a dense hand cream.

Other actions you can take to reduce plastic waste:



Chris Benz is a retired winemaker and founding member of Napa Climate NOW!. Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area.

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