The Green Holiday Series. Serving all your holiday needs since, well, Monday.
Without divulging all the super-cool handmade gifts I'll be presenting to my loved ones this year, I'd like to pass on some suggestions for gift giving this year that may not exactly be "green", but will certainly be a whole lot lower impact than something manufactured out of petroleum products and shipped from China.
So, without further ado, here's a laundry list of sorts to stoke your creativity:
Crafts - This, of course, assumes you have some sort of skill. And some projects do require it, but I've also included a few projects that anyone can do. For starters, there's the ubiquitous knitting, crocheting or other likewise crafts. If you're new to knitting or don't have a lot of time you can go with the obvious scarf or hat. Another thing to try is knitting up something I call bath scrubbies. Basically they are washcloths knitted from something like Chenille. I had a whole bunch left over from another project, so I doubled it up and produced something that was more loofah than a regular washcloth. Any thick natural fiber would work well. The best thing is that even the most inept knitter (that would be me) can crank one of these out in about an hour.
If knitting or crocheting is not your sport and sewing is, then by all means sew up some of those fancy bed warmers we were talking about a while back. You can fill them with rice and any kind of dried herb for an aromatherapy experience. If you want something a little more seasonal, try crushing cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg and adding it to the mix. Plus, they can be used as any sort of heating pad and not just because you're keeping your house temperatures at 60 degrees. If you have scraps of fabric left over from other projects, use those to make a patchwork pad.
If even that's too much and all you can do is boil water, well then making your own candles should be something you can handle. You can buy large blocks of beeswax and some molds and go to town adding different pigments and scents or just leave them au naturel. If that's still too much then you can get beeswax sheets for making rolled candles. They come in a variety of colors and are simple to do.
Making your own soaps is a heap of fun, teaches you a bit about chemistry and is extremely satisfying. But, if cold-processed soapmaking is a bit overwhelming for you (the lye! it burns! it burns!), you can go the melt and pour route. There are all sorts of super-fun soap molds out there and you can add all manner of additives (like oatmeal, cornmeal, dried flowers, etc.) to personalize it as much as you like.
While you're at it, you might as well make some lip balm as gifts. Who needs petroleum based lip balms, when it's sooo easy to make it out of luscious ingredients like cocoa butter, shea butter and mango butter. Heck, with flavorings like "champagne", make some extra for your Eco New Year's Resolution Party for the non-drinkers in your crowd.
Arts - If you're more artistic and less glitter and glue-gun, try painting something personalized on gallery wrap canvas or on something you can easily frame. For grandparents, frame some of your children's artwork. Better yet, have your kids make something special and let them pick out the frame.
If writing is more your speed, write a poem or pen a letter telling the person how much they mean to you or how they make a difference in your life. A haiku about your friend's passion for trout fishing will leave a more lasting impression than one of those damn singing fish.
Foods - If you have the equipment (although probably not the time if you haven't already started) bottle your own beer, wine or cider. You can buy customized bottle labels for that extra personal touch.
For food gifts, make mini loaves of quick breads, fudge, or cookies. If you have more time (or are just a crazy Canning Crack Ho like my friend, Rachel), make your own jams or fruit butters.
Other ideas include making your own granola and putting it in canning or fancier jars with ribbons (natural, of course). Additionally, you can make your own cocoa mix, spice mix, coffee mix, or other dry mixes to give as gifts.
One thing that is also fun is to paint an empty wine bottle with non-toxic paint and then fill it with an herb infused olive oil, complete with an oil pour spout on top.
Miscellaneous - If you don't have time to do much of anything, then print out some of these coupons for free massage and childcare to give to your friends and family.
You can also adopt a critter on someone's behalf or donate an animal through Oxfam or Heifer International. Who knew a sheep only set you back $45?
And, when in doubt, you can always check out the thrift stores, consignment shops and garage sales and help keep items out of the waste stream.