Green Goes Simple: The Green Scoop
Give a Better Gift
By Cynthia Ramnarace for Green Goes Simple
When I was a child, my sister and I treated piles of torn Christmas wrapping paper as if they were freshly fallen leaves — running through them, jumping on them and then helping to throw them in the trash. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember the days before recycling bins.)
Now that I have my own kids, Christmas mornings are still known for their piles of spent paper. I know all this holiday waste isn’t good for the environment, and it always makes me feel a little eco-guilt. So this year I made a plan based on a simple question: How can I waste less stuff?
Try these easy ideas for minimizing your family’s holiday waste:
Instead of wrapping presents, I’m buying a few dozen blank canvas grocery bags. My daughter Mira, 6, will love using fabric paint to personalize each one!
Recycled Gift Tags
Gift cards are lovely, but they hit the recycling bin once the holiday is over. Not this year! I plan to cut out designs from last year’s cards to reuse as gift tags. As for the cards I send, I’m going to send greeting cards with imbedded seeds that can be planted in your garden and sprout flowers come spring. (Check out the cards from the Greenfield Paper Company
Green Gift Wrap
Giving Grandma a sweater? Why wrap the garment box? Instead, I’ll tape the sides shut and glue one of my kids’ many pieces of artwork to the center.
A few tree ornaments will inevitably break each year. In the past, I always bought new ones to replace them. But I love this idea from foodie and mom Damaris Santos-Palmer: Dry orange slices in the oven and then hang them from your tree. “They look like beautiful stained glass,” says Santos-Palmer. “After we’re finished with the season, we just put it in our compost bin. Done.”
What I love most about these ideas isn’t that they reduce holiday waste — although that’s great! It’s that my kids can help me accomplish them. I can’t wait to see those orange slices shining on my tree, breathe in their scent, and tell my kids: “Hey, we made that!”
Cynthia Ramnarace is a freelance writer in Queens, N.Y. She is a regular contributor to iVillage.com and AARP Bulletin. Her work also appears frequently in American Baby and Kiwi magazines.
There’s so many great green gift guides out there – here are my favorites this year.
1. Inhabitat Inhabitat has an incredible selection and it’s easy to find the right gift with the way they have everything in categories.
2. Treehugger Another wonderful green gift guide.
I love this Plan Toys Eco Town
3. Eco Mom has a great selection also.
I want this adorable robot top.
Green Goes Simple: Family Footprints
Turn Something Old Into Something New
By Alison Baenen for Green Goes Simple
It’s easy to forget that the components of the classic sustainability slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle” are actually listed in order of importance. Recycling is undeniably significant, but reducing and reusing — using less and using something again — have a greater impact. Enter “upcycling.” It may sound like a tortuous spin class maneuver, but upcycling is nothing more than reusing with a twist.
The process of upcycling involves taking something old or unused and turning it into something usable — and often beautiful. The online arts and craft community Etsy.com has a seemingly endless amount of upcycled goods: Discarded fabric scraps morph into adorable dresses; buttons become earrings; and fallen timber is used as a canvas for cozy, chic wall hangings.
Want to give upcycling a shot? Read on for some tips and inspiration:
Start the upcycling process by finding something worthy of a second life. Meg Allan Cole, DIY expert and host of ThreadBanger’s (Threadbanger.com) Decor It Yourself web series, recommends shopping for used goods at thrift stores as well as Craigslist and stoop sales. And don’t forget your own closets: Cole turns garments handed down from her grandmother into beautiful upcycled clothing and accessories.
You can also look to nature for inspiration and materials. Home stylist guru Tim Neve’s beautiful driftwood lamps is a great project to do with the kids (find instructions at TimNeve.com). But of course, not all upcycling equipment can be found in nature. Cole recommends stocking up on a few basics: protective gloves, a glue gun, a staple gun, galvanized wire and a sewing machine. She’s found all of the above on Craigslist and at yard sales, making her projects even greener.
Cole says the first step to a successful upcycling endeavor is changing your vision. “I’ve learned that you have to retrain how you see solutions,” she told us. “Instead of just buying something to solve a problem quickly, look at the resources you have and see how you can breathe new life into them.” For example, in honor of Earth Day, Cole turned a collection of old spoons — some of which she scooped up for cheap at thrift stores — into a gorgeous pendant lamp.
Upcycled projects can go from the simple (think DIY with your toddler) to the glamorous. Natalie Chanin, who heads the Vogue-vetted fashion label Alabama Chanin, makes her romantic, full-skirted dresses and exquisitely detailed outerwear from a combination of vintage, repurposed and organic fabrics hand-stitched by local artisans in or around her home base of Florence, Ala.
For Cole and plenty of other crafty types, materials may be cheap — or better yet, free — but inspiration is usually rich. Cole’s design idols range from Coco Chanel to Grey Gardens’ Edie Beale, not to mention a soft spot for the TV classic “Dallas.” First-time upcyclers should dream big, says Cole. “Keep your eyes open to what you’re drawn to, to where you find beauty,” she says. “Even if you don’t have a place for it now, you will.”
Alison Baenen is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her writing has appeared in Style.com, ContributingEditor.com, Epicurious.com and Concierge.com. In addition to editorial work, Alison is a copywriter for Theory, Gilt Groupe and PRPS.
On your marks, get set, Let the shopping begin! This year I am shopping different then from years before. This year gifts I buy will be eco-friendly. What is my definition of eco-friendly? Either recycled, handmade, locally made, or made by an eco-friendly company. It is going to make shopping a little more challenging in many ways. I use to go on Amazon and buy whatever. Now I am looking at where something is made, is it recyclable, fair-trade, etc…
As a mom of a 2 year old I am more concerned then ever about the state of the planet. I want my son to grow up breathing clean air, playing in nature, seeing beautiful wildlife, and all the great things I had growing up.
I would love to hear how you are going to be more eco-friendly this year.