Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday gift waste

The holidays are over and you've gotten everything you wanted, and some you didn't.  There are always those people who give you stuff because they think they're expected to, but have absolutely no idea what you like so just buy any random thing so they don't come empty-handed.  The thought was wonderful, but what you got isn't the most practical and will just collect dust in the back of a closet somewhere in your house.

So did you get something this year that you have absolutely no use for whatsoever, like another hot pink snuggie or maybe a sweater that doesn't fit you AT ALL?  What are your options for getting rid of these things without throwing them in the trash?

Freecycle or donate:
This is a great way to get rid of those things you don't need or want and give them to those less fortunate.  Win-win!

Dress up trunk:
Save outdated clothes or those that don't fit for a dress up trunk for the kids in your life (nieces, nephews, and grandchildren count too).

For those last minute gifts, keep an extra drawer or closet shelf with some of these gifts (and put a piece of tape with the giver's name on it so you know who NOT to regift it to).  Some people say regifting is tacky, but I say it's environmental.  Better than ending up in the trash or not being used at all, right?

Have a swap party: 
Have everyone bring those gifts they don't want or can't use and have a party!  These swapping parties can be lots of fun as long as you don't invite anyone who has given you anything recently.  Don't want to be put in that awkward situation.

Check out this article on NPR about the value of gifts and swapping.
Hope these ideas will help you give those unwanted gifts a new home.  Just don't tell your great-Aunt Mildred I told you to get rid of her crocheted vest.  ;-)

Be sure to tune in to next week's post about making a green resolution.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Aftermath

The holidays will be over soon and we'll be left with the aftermath of the gift-opening frenzy.  What to do with all the waste?  Here are a few ideas on how to get rid of it all in the most environmental way possible.

Keep all of your gift bags, bows, ribbons, clothing boxes, and any decorative packaging that you can reuse next year.  I keep all of mine in a special holiday gift wrapping bin that I just store away with the rest of the Christmas decor.  I also keep a pair of scissors, tape, and gift tags in there so it's all ready to go for next year.

Please recycle your gift wrap unless it's foil paper or has anything in it that's not made of paper.  Also recyclable are tissue paper, cardboard boxes, or paperboard packaging (read: Barbie boxes, Bakugan boxes, and almost every other toy packaging). 

Christmas trees:
Take off all lights, ornaments, tinsel, garland, and any other decor on the tree before putting it on the curb.  Trees are usually taken curbside for two weeks after Christmas.  Google: "Recycling Christmas trees" + your county name and it should give you information on how to recycle in your area.  

If there's anything else you'd like to get rid of, please don't put it in the landfill.  Freecycle it instead or donate it to a local shelter or church.  Or wait til next year and sell it in a yard sale.  Remember, someone's trash is someone else's treasure.  

For more ideas, here's a great article on Earth911 about how to recycle Christmas decor, gift wrap, and other holiday leftovers: Holiday Recycling

Hope these tips will help you enjoy your holiday without creating too much waste in the process.  Have a great holiday and an even better new year!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eco-friendly gift wrap

Tis the season for gift giving and receiving.  But how to wrap your presents in an eco-friendly way? Without going so far as ironing and reusing gift wrap, here are a few ideas that don't kill as many trees this holiday season.

Gift bags:
These treasures are as easy as it gets to wrap gifts and can be reused til they fall apart.  Just make sure to take off any sticker labels before giving to someone else.  However, don't go overboard stuffing it with tissue paper since it's not recyclable in some areas.  

Cloth bags:
These are the best option because they don't require any trees, and are great to re-gift.  You can make your own with some pretty fabric or buy some already made.
Here are a few links for a how-to
http://www.wikihow.com/Sew-a-Cloth-Gift-Bag and http://www.canadianliving.com/crafts/sewing/holiday_craft_easy_to_make_gift_bags.php
And for already made bags, try Living Ethos or Lucky Crow for beautiful collections of cloth gift bags.  

Use the comics section of the Sunday newspaper for children's presents.  Wrap in a festive bow and they won't know the difference.  

Brown craft paper/paper bags:
Stamp the paper or put stickers to decorate, or have your kids draw something special on the paper. Finish it off with a beautiful ribbon or bow.

Recycled gift wrap:
These use less resources to make and are recyclable.  A lot of the fancy gift wrap contain elements (like metal, dyes, and laminates) that aren't recyclable.

Reuse gift boxes and shoeboxes:
You can decoupage these or just finish it off with a nice bow or ribbon. 

Clothing or blankets:
Wrap gifts in scarves, sweaters, baby blankets, fleece blankets, snuggies, or anything else that can be used again.  If giving a food or cooking gift, wrap in a kitchen towel or apron.  

Cellophane bags:
These are 100% biodegradable since they are made from plants and trees.  Wrap gift baskets with this or baked goods.

Some other recyclable or reusable gift wrap ideas:

Chinese takeout boxes, festive tins, old maps, or old calendars.  Use a pretty ornament or small picture frame as your gift tag.  And don't forget to reuse your ribbon and bows every year.

Hope these ideas will help you make your presents beautiful and eco-friendly.  Happy Holidays!! 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Homemade Holiday gifts

All of the big shopping sale days are through, but if you are still looking for ideas for gifts this year you could try making something yourself.  This doesn't have to look like a kindergarten class project so check out some of these ideas for homemade gifts:

Food gifts:
If you have a special talent for baking or crafting, why not share your skills with others this holiday season?
For the baker, make: breads, cookies, cakes, or pies and include a serving knife or spatula tied with ribbon around the jar or container.
For the cook, make: jams, marinades, salsas, or infused olive oil and include a serving spoon.
Try making kits in a jar to make cookies, cakes, soup, etc.
You could also make a meal for someone, or even compile your favorite family recipes into a recipe book (if you add pictures you can do this on any photo website, such as Shutterfly).
Don't forget to include recipes for any treats you make so the recipient can make them again.

For the crafty:
If you're good with paper: make a pack of embellished notecards, cards for special occasions (like birthdays, anniversaries, etc), bookmarks, or a birthday calendar.  Include a nice pen or pencil and wrap in pretty ribbon.
Make a scrapbook where the recipient only has to fill in the photos, or include the photos yourself.
Decorate a photo frame for a special picture, or make a wreath (either real or artificial, or even one made of ornaments).

For those good with needles:
For sewers, make: doll clothes, aprons, special monogrammed things such as pillowcases, napkins, towels, or baby burpcloths.
For knitters, make: scarves, sweaters, mittens, stockings, winter hats, etc.

Homemade spa treatments:
Put together some bath salts, aromatic oils, make soap or candles.  Craft stores have kits to make the soap and candles, and also sell jars and bottles for the salts and oils.  You could also find jars & bottles at The Container Store, thrift store, or antique store.
Martha Stewart has good recipes on how to make good bath salts.  Here's a site for easy to make bath oils: http://www.beauty-and-the-bath.com/homemade-bath-oil.html

Other ideas:
Put together a family tree for someone who's really into their genealogy.  Or make a CD of favorite songs for your kids or for that special someone.  

Get creative.  There are a million ideas out there for ways to use your talents to make gifts that your loved ones will enjoy.  Be sure to package these goodies in an eco-friendly way (tins, special dishes, reused pasta sauce jars, etc).

Happy Holidays!