Greening up Christmas: Post Holiday

Now that Christmas is over, and other holidays are going to be ending, what methods can you take to make sure the clean-up has as little impact on the environment as possible?  Here are a couple ideas:

  • If you received gifts in regular wrapping paper, save it and use it to pad around your ornaments and decorations when you put them away.  They make great cushioning paper.  Read about wrapping paper from earth911 who says: “if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.” If you were careful when opening gifts, you may be able to reuse the wrapping paper for gifts next year.  My father and I wrapped all of our gifts in leftover tissue paper and plain cream colored packaging paper this year.  We also use newspaper which we can then use to start fires with in our woodstove over the winter.
  • Of course everyone knows to save your gift bags and reuse them next year.  You can also use them to bag up extra decorations as needed.
  • Some places will actually recycle your christmas tree and turn it into mulchIn Huntsville Alabama there is a Botanical Garden that will do this if you drop the tree off.  Do some research and see who else in your area might be providing this same service.
  • Re-gift unwanted gifts. If you feel bad about asking for the receipt to return a gift, and if your gifters don’t have the for-sight to provide you with the receipt just in case, then re-gift the item.  I love regifting, so long as I’m giving it to someone I know will appreciate it.
  • In my article about how to reduce paper waste this Christmas, I mentioned that you can donate your christmas cards to St. Jude’s Children’s Ranch to be recycled into new cards.  Make-stuff.com also provides a list of ways you can creatively reuse your christmas cards as well.

What other creative ways do you make your post-holiday clean-up more eco-friendly?

Greening up Christmas: Gifts

Christmas Recycle

Following suite of my article Greening up Christmas: Paper Waste, I figured it’d be fun to evaluate other methods to make Christmas greener this year.

Lets take a look at gifts.

  • Home-made gifts are always the way to go for Christmas. I make a mean cherry brownie with home-made cherry chocolate ganache. I’ve seen other people knit scarves, make pendants, whatever you can put together with love is a great gift idea.
  • Donate your time. Are you pretty handy with a skill? A cousin of mine donated his time to rework some of our electrical work in our old house a few years back. Another person I know donated a free tarot reading as a gift. I could certainly donate a web design or two to a friend who I know needed one.
  • Donate to charity in a friends name. Always a popular choice, you could always donate to a charity fund in your friends name. My family has a lot of diabetes, so donating to the diabetes fund would be especially touching for them.
  • Regift. I actually like the concept of regifting. I mean sometimes you just get a gift that you don’t like or wouldn’t use. Why not put it to good use and give it to someone would could appreciate it?
  • Give a gift of time. A day at the spa, or a day at the golf course are excellent eco-friendly gifts as well. Consider them like gift certificates of time to your loved one.
  • Giftcards. Though not a very personal gift, Giftcards help prevent unwanted gifts that might end up being thrown away or cluttering up someones house.

Also check out some of Care2’s Consumer-less gift ideas.

Opting out of Overdraft Protection, Finally the Feds are doing something right

According to the Associated Press, on July 1st the government will require that banks allow customers to opt out of overdraft protection for debit/credit transactions. This is something I’ve wanted for my dad for ages now, and I think it will help him out greatly. Basically any transaction he attempts to put through with his card that would normally make him overdraft, will instead be denied.

“Under the Fed’s new rule, which will take effect July 1, banks will be required to notify new and existing customers of their overdraft services and give customers the option of being covered. If customers don’t “opt in,” any debit or ATM transactions that overdraw their accounts will be denied, Fed officials said.”

However checks and regular bill payments are not covered by this rule, simply because the majority of people would rather overdraft than bounce a check or a bill (like rent) not get paid. Which makes sense to me, and is probably for the best.

“Many consumers do want checks and regular electronic bill payments to be covered in the event of an overdraft, Fed officials said. As a result, those transactions aren’t covered by the rule.”

Why this has taken so long to come into effect is boggling, but at least it’s finally happening.

Greening up Christmas: Paper Waste

Christmas Recycle

Paper waste is abundant at Christmas time, from holiday cards to wrapping paper.  In the United States an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays.

Just think of how much waste is produced by the Christmas Card alone.  Not only are you producing the paper waste of the card itself, but the fuel to send it where it needs to go.  In the UK, over 1 billion Christmas Cards end up in landfills, and 1.9 billion by Americans.   One tree is needed to make up 3,000 cards.  That’s a ton of waste!

Wrapping paper is probably one of the most wasteful things we use during the holidays.  A glorified decorative piece of paper with its inks and dyes, wrapped around a gift for only a few days before being torn off and thrown away.  The paper itself doesn’t burn well because of the inks and dyes, and the burning of those inks and dyes releases harmful chemicals anyway. 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags are thrown away each holiday season.

How can we reduce our paper waste during the holidays?

Gift Paper:

  • A few times I used newspaper we had lying around the house, generally for everyday gifts.
  • I’ve wrapped gifts in a nice piece of fabric I had lying around, tyed with a nice piece of string or bow that I also had.  If the receiver does not wish to keep the fabric, I ask for it back to be used again.
  • I’ve wrapped gifts in paper bags from the grocery store, which are a perfect canvas for my own custom decorations should I choose to.  An example could be taking a piece of apple or a leaf and painting one side to create your own rustic stamp on the paper.  Personally I think the paper bags look nice and traditional, especially when wrapped with bailing twine.
  • Buy recycled wrapping paper with eco-friendly ink.

Greeting Cards:

Soy Ink

  • Obviously sending no card at all is the best way to reduce waste, but is a hard and undesirable step for some.
  • Some like to make their own cards from materials around their house, which is a lovely way to send a custom greeting to a loved one.
  • You can also recycle old cards, or cards you have received by cutting off the front and attaching it to another piece of (recycled) paper to resend.  But some view this method as tacky.
  • Send an e-greeting to family and friends.  Most people have access to the internet these days, which means most people will have an email account.  Send them an e-greeting instead where you can personalize a message within the card.  Not only does it help save the environment, it saves your wallet too, since these are generally free.
  • Buy recycled gift cards with eco-friendly ink.  If you’re going to waste money on cards anyway, may as well put forth the money for nice recycled ones.

Recycling Holiday Waste:

  • As mentioned above, you could reuse your own cards to send out each year.
  • St. Jude’s Ranch for Children is a nonprofit that uses donated greeting cards to create new card sets.  The proceeds from this go to help abused children.  What a great way to recycle your old greeting cards.
  • Be careful when opening gifts wrapped in paper, and see if you can’t reuse that paper again in the future.
  • Save the holiday bag you receive and reuse them to gift next year.
  • Reuse wrapping paper, envelopes, and/or cards to create your own gift tags.  I’ve used old wrapping paper for gift tags for years.  Simply cut a rectangle and fold it in half.  Write your gift tag in the center and tape to your gift :)

Looking Glass: An Eco-Friendly Halloween

halloween2 years ago I wrote an article on A Fair Trade Halloween that gave ideas for making your holiday a little more eco-friendly.

Other Articles around the Web

Nature Moms gives a big list of eco-candy, gift, and costume ideas.

Kiwi Magazine talks about eco-friendly halloween crafts.

Inhabitots discusses eco-friendly costume ideas and where to purchase.