Tuesday, December 15, 2009

greening the holidays

Hello dears. Are you green-ing your holidays this year?

No, I'm not talking decor color schemes but, rather, ways that you can have a more environmentally and socially conscious holiday season. I know that everyone has a lot on their plates this time of year (literally AND figuratively) but, that's no excuse for taking it out on Mother Nature, and your fellow earth-dwellers! So pardon me while I step up on my soap box for a minute ;-)

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year's, American household waste increases by 25%, and that the trash generated from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons annually? Think of all the money and reusable materials wasted...
Nauseating, isn't it?

Well, it doesn't have to be this way. There are little things that we can all do to reduce our impact on the environment and help out others, while saving money, energy and other valuable resources in the process. Here are some great ideas to get you started...

{Martha's wonderful recycled holiday card ornaments and garland.}

{Stars made out of old cards could be used as ornaments, gift toppers or components of a garland, found on Recycle, eh!}

Holiday cards
In the U.S., 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold each year (that's enough cardstock to fill a football field 10 stories high!).

-This year, skip the cards and opt for e-cards for a nice, inexpensive and postage-free holiday greeting. You can find an assortment of lovely holiday e-cards at American Greetings, Hallmark and elsewhere online. Alternatively, send out a family style letter via e-mail with holiday photos and wishes for *free*.

-You'll inevitably get a few cards from others -- but what to do with them? Use the festive bits to make your own cards, gift tags, ornaments or use them in scrapbooking. Martha has a great tutorial for making different kinds of ornaments and garlands out of recycled holiday cards here. (I've made several of the globe ornaments -- they're so easy and look wonderful!)

{Pretty metallic wrapping, huh? Yeaaah, that's a potato chip bag! Don't believe me? - check this out.}
{Paul's recycled holiday card gift tags are so cute and eco-friendly.}

Gift wrap
Half of all the paper used here in the United States is used to wrap and decorate gifts. HALF. That's a freakin' lot of paper! Not to mention, we're spending about $2.7 billion on all that stuff... just to end up in the garbage.

-Recycle and reuse as much of your trimmings as you can -- wrapping paper, gift bags, tins, tissue paper, ribbon, bows, twine and packing fillers can all be reused easily. If the paper, tissue or bags are damaged beyond reuse, shred them to make recycled filler for gifts and packages.

-Better yet, don't wrap your gifts with wrapping paper at all! Try using newspaper, comics, brown grocery bags, craft or butcher paper, outdated maps, burlap bags, children's artwork, fabric - perhaps jazzed up with a little paint, rubber stamps, stickers or glitter, and tied up with yarn, lace trim or strips of fabric that you already have.

-Even better, make the packaging part of the gift -- put your prezzies in a basket, tin or crate; wrapped in a kitchen towel or a vintage scarf; in reusable fabric grocery totes or inside of a larger gift.

-Make your own gift tags out of paper scraps, old cards, paint color chips, brown paper bags, magazine pages or whatever else you can get your hands on. Or skip the tags completely and write the recipient's name directly on the wrapping.

{Craftmodo's classic cranberry & popcorn garland.}

Holiday decor
-Keep holiday lights turned off and/or unplugged during the day and while you're snoozing. This not only saves energy and reduces your December utility bill but, it will make your lights last longer, too.

-If you're buying new lights this year, try LED light strands -- they use 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs.

-Create your own decorative garlands and buntings out of upcycled or repurposed materials (scrapbooking leftovers, newspaper, pretty magazine pages, fabric scraps, old envelopes, cupcake liners, book pages, coffee filters, whatever!). A few tutorials I thought were cool: Design*Sponge's recycled paper garland, and Creature Comfort's repurposed paper garland & cupcake toppers.

-You could also create biodegradable garlands from foodstuffs like popcorn and cranberries, which can be left outside for your feathered and bushy-tailed friends when they're done decorating your home.

{Edible homemade gifts are thoughtful and yummy. I love Real Simple's chocolate chunk hot cocoa mix idea.}

{Martha's teacup candles are a sweet gift -- and a great way to repurpose old candles and orphaned teacups.}

Gift shopping & giving
-Bring along reusable grocery totes when you're shopping for gifts, or consolidate all of your purchases into just one large shopping bag.

-Support artistans and crafters by buying handmade! Ya'll know I support Etsy and indie crafters as much as I can, and the holidays are a great opportunity to present your loves with beautiful handmade creations.

-In the interest of saving money, using things you already have and giving something truly meaningful, consider making your own gifts. There are great ideas out there for folks of any skill level and it is so much more special than anything you could possibly find on a store shelf. My favorite ideas include: edibles (cookies, granola, spice rubs, scented sugars, etc.), DIY infused vodka, homemade candles, family recipe books, stuffies, coupons for a service or time, treasured framed photos... see my links below for oodles of great ideas!

{Use fallen bits from your tree and other elements from nature as decor & gift embellishment, as Martha does here.}

{Your tree doesn't have to be a tree at all! Country Living's lovely rosemary "trees" are a great idea.}

Christmas trees
Over 33 million live trees are cut in North America every year, and most of them just end up in a landfill.

-Use clippings or fallen sprigs from your tree in your holiday decor or to top gifts.

-Look for alternatives to just throwing your tree out when the holidays are through -- some towns and cities use trees to make mulch for hiking trails, beach front erosion barriers and other things. Check with your local municipality to see what they're doing.

-Consider buying a potted tree or other plant (that is appropriate for your climate) and decorating it. It makes for a fun, nontraditional tree that you can keep or plant afterwards, and enjoy for years to come.

Some more links to give you green holiday inspiration...

*Martha Stewart: Eco Trimmings - Handmade Gifts - Earth Friendly Crafts (great gift ideas)

*Creature Comforts: 18 Days Series (ideas for handmade gifts & trimmings)

*Green Craft Magazine (gifts, gift wrap & decorations)

*Real Simple: Holiday Helpers - New Uses for Holiday Decorations - 9 Easy Recipes for Homemade Gifts - 14 Simple Homemade Gifts - New Uses for Holiday Things (great ways to repurpose post-holiday)

*A Do-It-Yourself Christmas: 34 Great Gifts You Can Make Yourself

*Recycle, eh! Blog (gift, decor & wrapping ideas)

Well my darlings, I hope that came off as helpful and inspiring, rather than preachy. I just think in these hard economic times and during these over-commercialized holidays, that we should be more mindful of our activities. We can be conscious, without sacrificing the thoughtful and joyous spirit of the season.

Mrs. M

{waste statistics from EPA.gov and recycleworks.org}

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