Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'll have a green, green Christmas

Green for ChristmasI 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.


Lisa said...

Ah, the Big Wheel. We had a Green Machine, which was pretty much the same but steered with 2 levers (, at the bottom). We thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Great holiday tips, thanks!

Unknown said...

There is so much to say about a green christmas. I am starting to focus my blogging on this, too! Without spoiling your handmade receivers holiday, would you be able to share a list of giftmaking ideas? I seem to get in a rut and imagine my family and friends can only use so many scarves :)

Anonymous said...

Loving Green I used this site frequently
They have stuff to make at home from simple to a little more complicated...they have stuff for kids and adults to make up.

Deb G said...

I'd also like to add that if you want to send cards, make your own. I use recycled paper, scraps of fabric, scraps of wrapping paper that gets too torn to use, and whatever else looks interesting. I also make my own tags.Some of my favorites cards that I've received are ones that children have drawn for me.

Cave-Woman said...

Ah, a green christmas.

It's a good thing.

The best tip I have for green wrapping is to use OLD wall-paper. ( I normally get a roll or two from a yard sale.)

The older wall-papers do not have adhesive built in---make lovely gift wrap, and cards, too. ( Plus, these are recyclable.)

I've used the plain unadorned backs for art projects, as well. Lots of fun.

I'm a seamstress, so I will take scrap fabric and make gift bags, too. Once the gift is unwrapped, the bag can be used for grocery shopping. It's a green two-for. (:

A good source for home-made christmas ideas is Amy Dacyczyn's "The Complete Tightwad Gazette". Most libraries carry it----and it not, is an awesome source for used books. Though you will have shipping, you are at least buying a used product, and not a new one.

Riana Lagarde said...

Great green ideas. I am also making and scavenging gifts for my friends and family, but the list is very short. Making soap, lip balm, felt birds, necklaces, spice packages, a leash for my moms dog. My Dh and I are doing each other favors around the house. He is filling up all my sewing machine bobbins. For gift wrap I found a ton of old accordion sheet music in grandpas garage.

I have asked everyone to get us used things from friends or use etsy to buy homemade things. Should make the season much greener.

Greenpa said...

Not wrap!! Not wrap!! Oh, fie fie fie! :-)

Not too sound too geezerish here, but I remember, decades ago...

My family always saved Christmas wrapping paper, very carefully, from year to year. Came from having parents who survived The Great Depression, I'm pretty sure.

In fact, it was wonderful. You learned to wrap and unwrap carefully; fold carefully, pack away carefully. Of course the paper wore out bit by bit- but I remember lucidly wrapping something small- using paper I had seen, and used for years, starting with something big. It was an treasured part of the whole scene; part of the shared memories- "you remember what this paper wrapped last year? two, three, four years ago?"

And we got to buy 2 new rolls a year- choosing them with the knowledge it would be part of the holiday for years.

We learned to think in multiple years. Far from being wasteful, it was a lesson in forethought.

So my vote is to wrap everything- and SAVE everything, including ribbon and bows. Recycling starts at home!

Anonymous said...

I sometimes find wrapping paper and cards at the Goodwill (second-hand thrift store). I love thrift stores!

Green Bean said...

I'm with Greenpa. For some reason, I've always saved as much of the ribbon, wrapping paper and tissue as possible - and of course the gift bags. I haven't bought gift wrap in I don't know how long. I also save the kids' drawings and use that to wrap smaller items.

So many ways to have a wonderful, traditional Christmas without consuming much more than turkey and pumpkin pie.

ruchi said...

Great ideas. I saved a lot of the decorative gift boxes I received from people, and I'm going to put my presents in those. The gift boxes are so pretty that no further wrapping is really necessary! And hopefully they'll continue to use the boxes for their gifts.

Keri said...

Many great ideas for a green Christmas! I'm just really surprised no one has mentioned using handmade cloth bags to wrap presents with. These are very easy to make (either with vintage fabric or Christmassy fabric) or you can buy them online and use them every year for many, many years! =)

Anonymous said...

I have a question for you. I carry reusable shopping bags with me whenever I shop. However, I do get some of the plastic blue bags at WalMart so I can use them for doggy poop bags when I walk my dog each night.
Do you have any suggestions as to what I could use instead of the plastic bags? This is a pretty long walk, so carrying poop in a piece of newspaper for over a mile isn't a great option...

Crunchy Chicken said...

anonymous - regarding the dog poop encased in plastic. What do you do with the poop itself? Do you flush it or throw it out? Either way, I would recommend using biodegradable corn-based plastic bags like BioBags Dog Waste Poop Bags. It will break down unless it's going into an anaerobic landfill environment.

If you toss the poop and the plastic into the garbage, I would start with flushing the poop - you'll keep more bacteria from leaching out into the groundwater. If you flush it, your sewage treatment plant should be treating the water. But every municipality is different and if you live in another country, all bets are off on that one.

So, for the most environmentally friendly dog poop experience (well, easiest at least), I would recommend picking it up with a BioBag like bag, flushing the poop and then throwing out the BioBag. It's not the best solution but it's doable for pretty much everyone without a huge yuck factor involved.

But, if you want to go totally nuts, then get yerself a dog poop composter and a shovel. Scoop and dump and you're done.

P.S. I understand that some people can't flush if they're using a septic system.

Anonymous said...

One year I made Christmas gift bags from Christmas cloth that was on clearance at Walmart. I bought it in January and made them in assorted sizes - most of my family gave the bags back to me to recycle - or they recycled them themselves. You also could use pinking sheers to cut the decorative fabric and wrap the gift that way. Great for someone who qults.

Anonymous said...

We also started sewing gift bags here about 10 years ago. My daughter then 8 learned the basics of sewing doing the gift bags. We used alot of scrap material from clothes I made up for her. Our only request is that people reuse them the next year. Granted it saves alot of time and money but more importantly it saves resources. We don't worry about what the pattern on the material is-so sometimes there will be a Halloween or bunny pattern showing up under the tree..adds a few chuckles. For tags we use old Christmas cards. And agian we ask people to recycle those.

Jennifer said...

I, too, grew up saving every scrap of wrapping paper.
It's quite easy... cut the paper in big rectangles. If it's too big for what you need, carefully fold under the "extra".
Use as little tape as possible... and use the cheap tape that doesn't stick so well, so it peels right up.

After opening each gift, we would carefully refold the paper and place it back in the box.

There is paper from 20 years ago in my mother's closet. :)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Christmas cards made out of elephant dung. Talk about recycling!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

We have been doing a "christmas card tree" on the wall ever since we were kids. As we start to get them we tape them to the wall in a triangular-Christmas-treeish shape. That way we get to enjoy the cards the entire month. Esp. as now most of my friends send cards with pics of their kids it is fun to see how creative everyone has been with the photos.

April said...

My MIL once used old wallpaper for gift wrap, it was beautiful. I have a bunch that was left in my basement by the previous owner and it's dark green, so I think I'll reuse it for gifts this year!

I like grosgrain ribbons, they can be reused forever.'

dang! I just saw that someone beat me to the wallpaper idea, humph!

Anonymous said...

We wrap gifts in the end rolls of newspaper paper. Check your local newspaper office (we also use it when moving for packing things as there is no print on it yet, it is just the ends of the rolls that are too short to use for printing)After the gifts are unwrapped, the paper is made flat and folded and added to the rest of any papers or newspapers in the recycle bin. I let the kidlets use a few stamps (different stamps for different holidays) and organic water soluable ink if we really want to make it look pretty :) Tie packages and bows with raffia, it can go in the compost pile :) We also have a wide assortment of cloth bags that we use year to year.
Last time the newspaper office gave us three end rolls and the time before that they sold it to us for about 10 cents a pound I think (those were really big rolls for us though)

Completely off topic, but I just discovered today that not only can my dryer lint go in my compost bin but so can the "dust" from my bagless vac!

Anita said...

A flower shop in another town was closing, and they were going to throw out a huge roll of green and red paisley paper... I have been using that for 5 or 6 years now, and still have enough for several years - it's thicker than normal wrapping paper, and very reusable!