Tis the season for giving! According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 25-40% of annual sales for some retailers.
That’s a lot of incentive to make gift giving green! From your choice of gifts… to how you wrap them… to earth friendly follow through, the holidays can be fun and festive–and still good for the planet! Here’s how!
First, start with a green gift. Here are some ideas:
Give a green gift (literally) If you truly want to be remembered consider a living gift. A few years ago my boss gave everyone on his team a tiny potted evergreen, studded with stars and ornaments for Christmas. When spring came, I planted mine in the yard, where it has thrived. I think of him every time I look at it! This type of gift keeps on giving—to the recipient and the planet.
Give a consumable gift . I just read The Story of Stuff and, OMG, we seriously need to reduce our consumption! But there are lots of items your friend and family will be using anyway like coffee, guest soaps, body lotion, and chocolate, so why not treat them to something especially nice. Daughters and women teachers will think you rock with products like nail polish (go natural to avoid the noxious odors and chemicals) or organic body polish, and everyone loves something edible. Socially responsible coffee, local food products, or homemade items are great ideas. My kids loved the “cookies in a jar” mix that I used to get annually and the edible “projects” were lifesavers pulled from the cupboard on a rainy day or if a play date was getting slow.
Share a piece of yourself. Certificates for services like babysitting or help with errands can be low impact on the planet and high value for the recipient. And they are a great option for anyone who is cash-strapped. I think my husband’s favorite gift ever was the set of “mow-the-lawn” coupons from the kids! If you offer to cook local foods, do green cleaning, or help with yard work, the gift can be doubly green.
Next you wrap your gifts, trying not to tap an oil well…
Reuse bags/give up gift wrap. According to the Carnegie Mellon Green Practices initiative, “If every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” Consider wrapping your presents with kitchen towels or t-shirts that will be used again–or use gift bags, which can also be reused. This year I took the mission one step further and saved all of our gift-style shopping bags for the year.
In early December, I took a sheet of wrapping paper that came in the mail (one of those freebees requesting donations), cut it up and glued it over the company names. Instant Christmas bags, out of all reused materials! Here are my pics:
One enterprising blogger even makes her own from newspaper!
And when it is all over…
Wash New Clothes before Wearing Them. I don’t even like to think about the chemicals that may be lingering on brand new clothes. Formaldehyde is sometimes used to keep things looking fresh in the store and there may be residues from “processing” the clothes, especially in wrinkle-free garments. Play it safe and wash before you wear.
Remember the new three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). When it’s cleanup time, reuse or recycle everything you can. And don’t forget to start saving gift shopping bags to decorate next year. I think that counts as reduce and reuse.
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