December 17, 2010

Tips for a Greener Christmas

Between environmental concerns and the economy, we're all concerned with "green" it trees or money. In our home, we successfully use some ideas that can save a bit of both!

Gift Bags - For Christmas time, I bought 3-4 yards of Christmas fabric for less than $1 a yard. I cut these into about 15 pieces in various gift bag sizes. I sewed them up, strung a ribbon through the tops, and now our family has a set of reusable gift bags. These bags will stay in our house for this year, but if I make a few more each year, we could be wrapping-paper-free in a few years.  TIP: shop after Christmas fabric bargains for the very best deals...up to 90% off!

Wrapping Paper - My daughter loves to paint. One Christmas her big gift was an easel. The large paintings she makes are perfect for wrapping paper. When we do use wrapping paper, even for birthday gifts for her friends, we use her paintings. It's a fun way to reuse the sheets.  TIP: using newspaper to paint on saves the cost of easel paper and reuses newspaper in a fun way.

Batteries - When my daughter was born, practically all of her "gadgets" required batteries. I thought we could buy stock in Energizer to offset years of disposable batteries. Or, we could spend $75 and buy a stash of rechargeable batteries. I bought them from Ebay, new in their packages, for a fraction of the cost in a store. Now 5 years later, I think I've bought disposable batteries the zoo when we forgot fresh batteries. TIP: Look for chargers that hold 8 batteries and accept all sizes.

Tree - I'll admit that we use a live tree that we cut down each year.  But there are other fun options!  There's always a fake tree, but they can be full of chemicals.  My favorite alternative to a cut live tree is a living live tree!  A friend of mine does this.  She bought a Norfolk Island Pine, which is a slow-growing tree that can live indoors year-round.  She's had it now for about 5 years and every Christmas, she decorates with ornaments and tinsel. 

Gifts - this is both the hardest and the easiest, in my opinion.  I like to try buying hand made and/or natural gifts...things made of wood, wool, fabric, etc.  Things that don't require batteries and that will last for years.  Investment toys, I call them.  This is easier than ever since most stores now carry at least a small selection of such toys.  I also prefer to buy local whenever possible, which is also relatively easy for me since I live in a good-sized town.  But gifts like these are usually more expensive, sometimes making them the hardest gifts to buy.  I can buy a rattle at Target (plastic, made in China) for about $3.  Or I can go to my local boutique and buy a locally-made, locally-sourced, sustainably-harvested wood rattle for $14. 

That's it for now, but I might write a follow-up post with more ideas!


Pattern for sewing a bag, or perhaps a no sew bag?

I didn't use a pattern. I just cut out rectangles in about the size I wanted, sewed up the sides, then folded down the top and sewed it down. Then fed a ribbon through the top to use as a drawstring. Each bag takes about 10 minutes start-to-finish. I have some that are cd-sized all the way up to large-toy-sized.

I'll have to give that some thought. I can hand sew, but machines just get the best of me for some reason.

I always save the paper gift bags, but fabric ones are a much better idea!

I've always wanted to get a live tree that could be planted after the holidays.

Jill - since the seams don't have to hold weight like they do for clothing, you could probably sew some by hand pretty quickly. Just make wide straight stitches or use a hemming stitch (my choice for this type of project). Even a basting stitch would be fast and would hold well enough. Doesn't have to be perfect by any means!