Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a Green(er) Christmas

This post may be coming a little late in the season to be useful for others, but keep it in mind for next year - please??

Some of the most wasteful Christmas traditions involve sending paper Christmas cards and using wrapping paper for gifts. Seeing someone haul out a new, empty garbage bag to stuff full of paper, bows and boxes drives me nuts (did you know that wrapping paper is recyclable?? Unless it's laminated, metallic, or has an extraordinary amount of tape on it - so why the trash bag?). I've decided to make some changes, starting with wrapping paper.

I never buy wrapping paper (or anything else for that matter) at full price. In the past I would always stock up on paper, gift bags, Christmas cards, etc at the end-of-season sales. That's going to stop - this year I'm not going to buy any new wrapping paper and instead either reuse paper from gifts my family has received or use another much more eco-friendly option - fabric! I got this idea from another person who bought a bunch of Christmas-themed fabric at the end-of-season last year and is now cutting it to size with pinking shears (which keeps the ends from fraying) and then tying the gifts closed with re-useable colorful cord or other ties. After the gifts are open you can give the recipients the option of keeping the fabric or giving it back to you for reuse next year. Over time you should come up with enough different sizes and shapes of fabric that you will be self-sustaining and not need to add to your stockpile anymore.

I'm hoping to take this a step further and try the Japanese art of Furoshiki or "cloth wrapping". It looks like a wonderful idea and elminates the need for a closure at all. I found a couple of videos on YouTube - check out demo 1 and demo 2, as well as this schematic if you just want to jump in and try it without watching someone else do it first!

This follows the idea of wrapping an item in a scarf or decorative towel - then the wrapping becomes part of the gift. Another idea I've used is reusing the wooden crates that Clementines come in and making that the base for a gift basket - I've done this a few times and loved the results. Or using the Sunday comics or other colorful ads or magazine pages to wrap small gifts. And what about making Magazine Bows for an additional festive touch?

The other change I'm making is going to be Christmas cards. I've noticed that the cards I enjoy the most are the ones that include a little newsy "Christmas update" letter - I love getting all the year's news in one place and I really appreciate the effort people make to put those letters together. My second favorites are the photo cards - there isn't any personalization but it's fun to see the pictures of the pets and kids in their holiday best. My least favorite are the cards that are just signed - no note or anything else to indicate they meant this card for me and not Uncle Tom or Aunt Betsy. Why bother? It seems silly and I feel like they should just save their postage for such a cursory effort.

So, with this in mind, I'm planning on sending e-cards to most of the people on my list - they will get the pictures I am sending in my paper cards, but most of these people are just going to look at the card and picture, smile and then after Christmas it will all go in the garbage. The other people - close friends and family - will get the paper cards and real photo. I know they will appreciate the extra effort and will probably put the photo in an album.

So, what to do with the cards you do receive?

  • Send them to a school or charity that can re-use them in art projects or even in making new cards as a fundraiser.
  • Cut off the front, attach it to some card stock and make your own cards for next year
  • Cut off the front and use it as a Christmas postcard - uses less postage too!
  • Cut out pretty shapes or images from the card and use them as gift tags
  • Cut out shapes attach a yarn loop and they become child-friendly Christmas ornaments
If you must buy cards at least look for cards or wrapping paper that are printed on recycled paper. Here are some sources for those products, courtesy of

RedStamp - cool card designs by different artists. Click Eco-Friendly under the type of card you want; some are even made from (sustainable) wood (prices vary).

Green Field Paper Co. - a bit pricey, but you can actually plant its Grow-A-Note cards after the holidays are over (about $4/card).

Pleasantrees - its recycled paper cards in traditional-ish designs (nothing too artsy-fartsy) come with free personalization, plus it plants three trees with every order (about $2/card).

BuyGiftPaper - not the schmanciest site, but it offers long rolls of solid and patterned recycled wrap ($14/roll).

Smith & Hawken - 30 feet of recycled, classic-looking, holiday-themed gift wrap ($9/roll).

Fish Lips Paper Designs - fun sheets of wrap, printed on recycled paper ($4/2 sheets).

Meaningful, one-size-fits-all gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money and you don't have to necessarily even wrap them - learn someone’s favorite tune on the piano, promise a month’s worth of back rubs, or issue a snow-shoveling voucher. Who wouldn't love that?

Lastly, light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights use 90 percent less power than the old incandescent kind (even though I love those "old-fashioned" lights :-(. It’s also easy to forget to turn those lights off if you decorate outside; use a timer so you don’t let them burn longer than three hours. Lights left on all day can drive your energy consumption up eightfold!

1 comment:

Jennifer Chandler McKeag said...

You can also glue magnets to the back of those cut up cards to create fun holiday magnets for gifts, stocking stuffers or for the kids to play with while in the kitchen.

If you have relatives that live far away, try gluing magnets to the back of the photos they send and putting them on the fridge to remind your little ones of their far flung family all year.