The Holiday season is just around the corner, and if you take a gander in any store it will appear that we are already in its midst. For many families, the economy is making us think about saving money this holiday season. We should always be looking for ways to have less impact on Mother Earth. The good news, being green this holiday season will accomplish both.
Here’s how to save money and help the earth this holiday:
- Eco Friendly gift wrap– your child(ren)s art work. We save these wonders throughout the year and then what? We use ours as gift wrap. Grandparents especially love this! Another great option, use other (plain) paper you normally recycle and allow your kids to decorate it with holiday designs. If you love a pretty package (I’m a sucker) then opt for recyclable materials. Our favorites are rafia and homemade clay ornaments.
- Holiday Cards– this is another great use for the kids artwork. Cut them into postcards, sign and mail. You can also make your own pretty cardstock by taking all your recycling paper, shred it, then puree in the blender with a small amount of water. Add dried flowers, leaves, sparkles, etc… pour onto a screen and allow to dry (this may take several days depending on temperature). Cut to desired size, add photo and sign. Or do as I do and skip the cards.
- Gift Basket- who doesn’t love a basket of goodies? Many families will receive a basket from us this holiday season. The basket itself will be made from recycled cardboard boxes (cut to size as needed) and wrapped in the kids artwork. Inside I can add shredded artwork or other paper to make pretty crinkles under the goods. Then we add things such as our homemade jams, jar cookie mixes, favorite recipes, soy candles, natural peppermint soap, homemade maple candy (in cute holiday shapes) and organic candy canes. Another basket option is the traditional fruit basket. We use the same wrapped box and fill it with organic apples, pears, oranges, bananas and a variety of nuts. When its appropriate, we add a framed photograph.
- What about the kids– put the kids to work making gifts for their siblings, friends, and teachers. Some great ideas include sock monkeys, simple knitted scarfs, t-shirt pillows (use an old shirt or find some at a second hand store) or picture frames (think nature and decorate the frame with twigs, pebbles, or seashells). Think outside of the box; an aluminum can makes a great pen holder (paint it and decoupage with photos, artwork, etc…), shoe boxes can be decorated to become a treasure box, coffee cans become drums or a vase for a beautiful fall foliage arrangement (twigs, leaves and pine cones anyone?). My kids absolutely love making clay ornaments which can be wonderful gifts on their own or added to a basket or the outside of a package.
- If you have a book lover on your list, visit a used bookstore and stock up. Or give them a gift certificate for that store. Maybe you will introduce someone to the wonder (and $$ savings) of secondhand reading. Books don’t require gift wrap, simply stack a few together and use some paper rafia to tie things up. Add a homemade clay ornament or a tag made of recycled paper. Voila’, you’ve just made someones day.
- Gifting coffee- choose only Organic, fair trade, shade grown varieties (such as Peace). Or pick up a gift certificate from a small, independently owned coffee shop (stay away from the corporate giant). Include a REUSABLE lidded coffee mug, and a recycled hang tag that reads, “saving the earth one cup at a time”.
Before hitting the stores, make a list. What skills do you have (or what have you always wanted to try)? Baking, canning, candle or soap making, sewing, crafting, scrapbooking, woodworking, knitting, beading, etc… Now make your who list. Next decide, family or individual gift. Now go through each family and individual and see if you can create something that would be well suited. Lastly, choose wisely when purchasing. Think about the impact that item has from creation to end of life (recyclability) and longevity.
Clay Ornament Recipe:
6 cups flour
3 cups salt
3 cups water (add instant coffee powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, food dye for color and smell if desired)
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Once well incorporated, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead dough for 5-10 minutes (until it has a nice play doughy like consistency). Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. You can also make candy canes, wreaths, snowmen and santa faces by rolling the dough into ball shapes (for the craftier person), these will required longer baking times as they will be much thicker than cut shapes. Remember to poke a hole into each ornament for hanging. The hole will shrink during baking so make it larger than needed (a straw or chopstick works well). Bake at 325 degrees F for about 90 minutes (the ornaments should appear dry). Allow to cool for several minutes on pan before removing to a cooling rack. Allow to dry completely before decorating. Ornaments last longest if coated with a clear acrylic polish. Let the kids (or the kid in you!) have a blast adding sparkles, paint, buttons, twigs, pebbles, photographs, etc.. to finish the ornaments. Once the decoration is dry, thread some hemp twine through the hole and they are ready to gift.
Photo from Dreamstime.