Eco-friendly Christmas Gifts

7 11 2010

I’m brazenly breaking my own rule about discussing Christmas before Thanksgiving. However, it’s fun and often necessary to think about the presents we’ll give to others well in advance – especially when making them. In that spirit, I give you a sampling of ideas you could use with little prior crafting or cooking experience. All are a great way to reduce the price tag and wastefulness of holiday gift giving.

  • A Storybook Life has an easy-peasy idea for ornaments or gifts that look and smell fantastic.
  • Right@Home is the source for simply elegant jar gifts. Not seen on that page are their inventive cocoa mix jars.
  • Consider gift baskets! My husband and I had a fun and impromtu date night one Christmas making a basket for extended family members with dollar-store items. There was something in it for everyone, and the creativity involved kept us entertained.
  • For many more homemade gift ideas, visit Martha Stewart’s Santa’s Workshop.

Obviously, the degree to which a handmade gift is also environmentally friendly depends both on the source and type of materials needed and the alternative gift you would have given. Some things to consider:

  • Source. Do I or someone I know already have some or all of the materials I need, or things I could substitute for them? Not consuming new materials is always the gentlest choice for the earth.
  • Type. If you must purchase materials, are there some that are made of recycled goods, and/or that can be reused or recycled when the recipient is done with them?
  • The Alternative. What would you likely have given that person instead? Would this object require more energy waste or pollution than what you will make?

Finally, if you are interested in reducing the “stuff” focus of your holiday season, check out this refreshing guide from Postconsumers.

Do you have any signature handmade holiday gifts?

Advertisements




Making It Yourself

1 11 2010

Let necessity be the mother of your inventions. When you have a need or want but would rather not spend, see what alternative you could make yourself. Examples:

  • Recently, I was bored with my selection of pants, so I dug out the pair I had been unhappy with and figured out (with not much formal sewing knowledge) that I could make a little alteration. Voila – favorite new pants!
  • Since all the billboards began popping up in September, I’ve been craving a pumpkin spice latte. Today I realized that there are usually internet instructions for store-bought favorites. Sure enough, I give you: DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is cheaper than Starbucks, if you have the ingredients on hand and use the rest of the pumpkin for something else.
  • Finally, something I can’t wait to try, courtesy of Martha Stewart: accessories made with old jewelry and ribbons.

One caveat: these do-it-yourself projects can become addicting. That being said, do you have any good and crafty links to share?





Making Do

25 10 2010
Vintage Tupperware and Fire King

There’s a Depression-era concept if ever I heard one: making do. How often, nowadays, does someone flatly proclaim that they will “make do”? It may be an attitude ripe for revival in our culture. Take me, for instance: I tend to whine about my current financial situation, but the truth of the matter is that there are blessings in making do, such as:

  • Discovery. One of the first things one can do when faced with a money shortage is really using what one already has: reading the books on the shelves, wearing the clothes seldom worn, playing the games rarely played. It’s like shopping – in your house!
  • Creativity. The other day, inspired by French tartine sandwiches on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, I made mock versions with ingredients I had on hand. It made me feel chic – and cheap, in a good way!
  • Contentment. While I certainly struggle with wanting things outside my reach, there are times of realization and satisfaction that I have all I really need, that I am blessed beyond a majority of the human population.
  • Good, old-fashioned smugness. Let’s admit it: sometimes there’s a guilty pleasure in knowing you cheated the system and saved some dough, or simply that you can be just as happy with a lower cost of living than other people.

Can you think of other blessings to be found in making do with what you have?





Going “Moneyless”

21 09 2010

Spending a year without spending a dollar

As I am newly unemployed, the idea of purposeful unemployment intrigues me.

In 2008, businessman Mark Boyle went on a one-year hiatus from making money and lived in a trailer on an organic farm, trading labor for rent and foraging for all of his food. Now, the “Moneyless Man” has published a book about his experiences, which he describes as overwhelmingly positive. The book offers tips for reducing your expenses, as well as your carbon footprint.

I wonder if Boyle was motivated more by his economics training, a desire for sustainability, or an escape from the rat race? Many ethical issues arise here, from foraging for food in supermarket dumpsters to the fact that Boyle was still technically earning a living, only in exchange for accommodation instead of cash. I am definitely interested to know more about what he sought to demonstrate or learn through his experiment, and I love his idea for a  “freeconomy community,” in which members teach each other skills at free events.

Are you interested in Boyle’s story, or do you think he went too far to prove a point?





New Tips for Winterizing Your Home

14 12 2008

Oh Ranger! has some great tips and surprising facts for improving the heat retention in your home. Several ideas cost nothing to implement, and one insulation idea runs as low as 4 dollars in some stores. To check it out, visit this link, and stay warm!





Save Some Dough This December

17 11 2008

. . . And have more money for baking. Glamour magazine’s December issue states that of those readers polled, 55% spend $500 or more on gifts. If you’re looking for ways to cut back on holiday spending (and who isn’t?), try these ideas:

  • Give selectively. I am not the first to lament that Christmas has become an escalating consumer-fest, but have you really considered what that means for you ? I bet you can remember, right now, a recent time you gave a gift to someone and wondered why you needed to. The answer is: you don’t need to! Start your own campaign to give meaningful gifts and to give them meaningfully, which requires a) only giving gifts to those you wish to give to, and b) giving gifts for their significance and not their price or status. Those who love you will understand any reduction in quantity, and those who don’t? They don’t deserve a present, anyway.
  • Give homemade. Simple homemade gifts, elegantly presented, are great for giving to those you know less intimately. It’s a way of being thoughtful without spending too much, and it’s not hard to find ideas that don’t require special cooking or crafting expertise. Consider trying these ideas: Cinnamon and Applesauce Ornaments; Holiday Gift Ideas (scroll down); and Gifts in a Jar.
  • Send an e-card. I know, I know; they’re not made of beautiful paper with glitter, gilt, and ribbons, and they’re definitely harder to display in your home, but e-cards are often free, and the environmental benefit is great. Even if your family won’t stand for such things, send e-cards to your extended friend and co-worker network. It’ll save you money on stamps, cards, and gas to drive to the card store and post office. The Nature Conservancy has some pretty e-cards to get your started. You could even make your own; all you need to know is how to paste a picture into an email!
  • Don’t buy into fancy trimmings. You don’t need the blow-up snowglobes (they reek of planet-wrecking anyway), the timed light display, or even the designer wrapping paper. Try focusing on the spiritual purpose of Christmas, and when tempted, remember that people care more about what is in the package than what it’s wrapped in.
  • Cut down on the little things. Make a few sacrifices in your own life to meet more needs this holiday, especially if current conditions have you strapped for cash. Don’t buy unnecessary luxury goods like liquid hand soap (use a bar); special candy for your home (you’ll likely eat your fill elsewhere); and coffee from coffee shops (buy ground coffee in bulk and brew at home). Think ahead to save even more: can you push your haircut to right before peak holiday party time? Can you do all your shopping online or in one big day instead of making many trips?

One last tip: check RetailMeNot.com for coupon codes before making online purchases. Have a relaxing and simple holiday season!





Lower bills and energy use

13 11 2008

TheNest.com has some novel tips for reducing energy loss in your home, as well as lowering other bills:

10 Ways to Cut Monthly Bills








%d bloggers like this: