Monday, December 8, 2014

A Green Christmas, Part 4: Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap

The amount of trash produced during the holidays really hits home after all the presents have been opened... and opened again out of their manufacturer's packaging. Some of this packaging is unavoidable but the countless black garbage bags of wrapping paper going to curb is a huge waste that can be completely (and easily!) rectified. Almost all of the wrapping paper sold in stores cannot be recycled. The same goes for all the ribbons, bows and name tags that are the precursor of excitement before the actual ripping frenzy begins. Switching to reusable and recyclable wrapping options will do wonders in cutting down your waste output this Christmas. And if you use items that you already have around the house, you can save all the money dumped on holiday-themed wrapping paper and put it towards the gifts instead (or maybe towards a local, pastured ham for the dinner table!).

Gift Tags

Yogi Tea is a national brand that can be found in most grocery stores, as well as lining my pantry shelves as I have been drinking this tea for years. However, it wasn't until I read I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas, by Anna Getty, that I realised the inside of the boxes have the coolest lotus designs that can be used as name tags. (Yogi Tea has a recipe for everything health-wise but apparently not for observational acuity.) The beautiful design not only adds a unique finishing touch to your wrapped presents but it is also 100% recycable- and that's something we all can observe.


Making your own bows from colorful sales ads is so incredibly simple (and frugal!).

                                          Start by cutting the ad into long strips 1-inch wide.

Lay the strips down like an asterisk on the wrapped present, taping down the center of the strips as you go. Depending on how full you want the bow, add as many or as few strips as you want. Make sure to leave 2 - 3 extra strips to finish the bow at the end of the process.

Taking both ends of the same strip, loop towards the middle and tape down in the center. Continue to do this with all the remaining strips.

Use the extra strips to fill in the middle by making loops and taping down both ends. Now you have a nice big, fun bow that took 3 minutes to make and cost nothing. Oh, it's recycable, too!

Alternative Wrapping Paper

Kraft paper makes excellent recycable wrapping paper for any occasion. Use stamps or markers to make it more festive. I found a box of Christmas stamps on Bookoo for $5 that will be put to good use.

Using old music sheets from the thrift store is a sure way to add some unexpected whimsy under your tree (bonus if you can find holiday music!). The large book of classic music that I found cost ninty-nine cents and will cover its share of gifts. Old encyclopedias also would make a fun wrap. The ribbon is from that big Costco roll mentioned here, and with using just a simple Christmas stamp, this thrift store find can turn into an elegant present without the cost of traditional wrappings.

The comics have long been used for wrapping paper but sometimes you can find colorful, fun articles like in the photo above as well. Know someone who loves cross-word puzzles? Use that section to wrap their gift! I usually get my news online to cut down on paper waste but with this one newspaper I bought, it provided this craft and a treasure trove of wrapping paper and bow options.

Reusable Wrap

Recycling, though much preferable to trash, still has its own environmental impact. That's why it is a good idea to play around with reusable wrapping options, too. Above is a Chicco reusable shopping bag. Use the handles to tie a bow on top and then fold and pin any excess underneath. Not only is this a great way to wrap those awkwardly-shaped presents but hopefully it will inspire the receiver to use less plastic bags on their future shopping trips!

If you are handy with a needle or thread, a quick Google search will yield a ton of fabric gift bags that you can make yourself. If you have been following this blog for any length of time then you know that I most certainly am not handy with anything resembling a needle but this is where supporting small business can really help out. Etsy is a great place to shop for eco-friendly gift wrap. One of my personal Etzy favorites is a shop called Sue Made It that you can check out here. Neither this blog or myself is receiving any monetary benefit from this promotion- I just think this lady is super talented and I love her stuff!

Sue makes all kinds of handmade treasures, and in the case of her bags, from upcycled materials. The bags that she creates are one-of-a-kind finds that are just as much the gift as what they are housing inside.

From Sue Made It: Poinsetta Gift Bag. At $6 this is a very affordable reusable option.

From Sue Made It: Wide bottom bag for the extra-wide gifts.

From Sue Made It: Perfect for all those pre-teens and teens in your life who only want gift cards. (If you have the option of a gift certificate- go with the paper and cut down on the plastic!)

Sue also provides customization services as well. If you have something in mind and don't see it on her site, she is more than happy to work with you. Below is the jewerly that she created for me after I handed her two small pieces of beach glass and asked for earrings.

I adore these earrings not only because they are beautiful but because they are made with mementos from our family vacation this year. So whether it is eco-friendly bags or a custom treasure, you are in goods hands with Sue!

Holidays are about friends, family and good food- and presents, too (I mean, who are we kidding, right!). However, all that joy and warmth doesn't have to be synonymous with trashing our planet.  So when Christmas morning comes around, hopefully you'll have a blue recycle bin by the tree instead of that big black garbage bag... and the peace and good-will of the day can carry over into a brighter and healthy world tomorrow.

This series has been a blast for me as I love learning and doing new things. It has been eight fun and wonderful months since I started this blog and I want to thank everyone who has been on this journey with me. I will be taking the next few weeks off to spend with my family and to refresh and renew for a new year of healthy, safe and budget-friendly posts.

Wishing everyone a safe and very happy holiday season!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Green Christmas, Part 3: Nature Finds

A green Christmas wouldn't be complete without some real greens decking your halls, staircase, table or... anywhere really. By using nature to decorate you are actually helping to preserve it- as all living things must die and then decompose (and then could become some pretty fantastic fertilizer). Artificial plants and trees, on the other hand, are meant to last indefinitely- and they do, in the garbage dumps, forever and evah. If you are in the market for a new Christmas tree then the live version is the most eco-friendly choice. Recycling them after the holidays is getting easy, too, as more and more townships are offering curb-side pick-up for recycling into mulch. If your town doesn't offer this service then check here for other recyclable options. If you absolutely can't purchase a live tree then buying a used artificial tree would be the next best choice. It also means that you won't have to worry about the toxic off-gassing that new artificial trees perfume your home with, either.

This little guy is a Norfolk Island Pine sold at Meijer for $6. Keeping with my color scheme, I switched out the red paper that was wrapped around the base with some thrift store sheet music. Right now it is adding a festive touch to my kitchen table but after the holidays it will go up to my bedroom to help purify the air. This is a good thing to remember when shopping for holiday greenery: live plants purify the air and artificials, at least while new, are adding toxins to it. The Norfolk Pine comes from Hawaii so it will always be an indoor plant but depending on where you live and the type of evergreen tree used, your holiday decor can be planted in your yard come spring.

Your yard is a great place for finding nature-made decorations. In the photo above, pomander balls (oranges with cloves stuck in them) are nestled in a bowl of clipped evergreen branches from my front yard. The three rose hips were salvaged from the fall pruning of the backyard rose bushes. Get creative with the pomander balls and try different patterns with the cloves. This has a nice subtle fragrance but the best part of using material from your garden: it's free!

Part of this next project came from my yard as well and was inspired by two different decorating books. In a Southern Living holiday book they had two Manitoba branches threaded through a chandelier that looked similar to the fixture in my dining room. In I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas, Anna Getty placed large branches in a vase and hung thrift store chandelier crystals off of them. I loved both ideas so much they just had to be combined.

I didn't have any luck finding chandelier crystals but I did come across a bag of the icicles (in the photo above) for $3 at Savers. Since the icicles already came equipped with little metal hooks, hanging them on the branches that were cut from my tree was a cinch.

Adding nature finds to your holiday decorating decor is a wonderful way to pay homage to all this beautiful world has to offer. It is a breath of fresh air for your home and your lungs. It also doesn't get more economical then when it is cut right from your own backyard!