I hope you all have recovered from Thanksgiving (for those of you in the U.S.) and I bet you are gearing up for the holidays.
As such, I'm starting a series of posts on how to green your holidays. There are many different ways of have a lighter impact on the earth this holiday season.
Today's post is all about the gifts.
Christmas cards - This one's a tough one for me. I like to send out Christmas cards but I have in the past also sent out an electronic newsletter to people. That way you can include way more information and pictures than you can on a Christmas card. If you can't do without, use those free cards you get in the mail since you'd be recycling them anyway. If you don't get any or don't have enough to fit your needs, then make sure the ones you do buy are made from 100% recycled paper. If this still gives you the willies, then offset your guilt by donating to Terrapass or something.
Gift wrap - Just like for Emma's birthday this year, I'm going to try to avoid wrapping paper as much as possible. Now, I don't have much control over the gifts coming into the house and, if it's like last year, we'll have so many for the kids we won't buy any ourselves. But, for the ones we do buy, I'll be reusing gift bags from last year. I really recommend them as they are sturdy and can be used again and again and again. If you really must use gift wrap, try to think of alternatives. A favorite of ours has been old maps or posters. Have the kids decorate some paper grocery store bags if you have them. And there's always the option of reusing gift wrap if you can. Of course, it may be hard to salvage after the kid's get at it.
Ribbons and bows - The best thing to use is something biodegradable or compostable. There are a lot of materials out there that look quite nice on packaging and can be used as ribbons and then other materials can be added as bows. Think about using sisal or raffia ribbons and old buttons for bows on smaller packages. There's also hemp string, yarn and natural or wooden beads to add.
Gift tags - This is where you get some karma back from those Christmas cards you bought. Use old cards that you received from the previous year, cut them into little rectangles and use them as gift tags, attaching them with some of the raffia you used to decorate the gift.
One thing I'd like to push, for those gifts left under the tree by "Santa", is not wrapping gifts at all. I don't remember my parents wrapping the gifts, just putting gift tags on them. Just make sure things are clearly marked so there are not misunderstandings. Because that's how I ended up with my brother's Big Wheel, and to this day I have not been forgiven.
And, finally, for all the packaging that's left over, make sure you recycle the things you can't reuse next year!
Gift giving - First of all, you might want to think about making your own gifts. I'm torturing all my friends and family this year with a hodgepodge of handmade gifts in recyclable gift bags. It's a lot more personal than a premade item although it's not always suitable. If you're not handy or don't have the time or inclination to fabricate all your own gifts, you can still consider not consuming anything new by looking for items that are gently used. You might even be able to afford something bigger and more exciting if you searched on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon. If you want to avoid shipping, look for local artists and artisans to supply your special gifts.
When in doubt you can give experiences instead of stuff for a waste free holiday. Tickets to music, plays, sporting events, museums, massages and meals are a great way to splurge on a friend or family member. And cut down on all the packaging. If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you can donate your time by offering babysitting services, offers to clean the house, wash and wax a car, change the oil... the list is endless.