Green Up Merry Christmas

No, I’m not referring to Global Warming and the idea that it might not snow. I’m referring to great green ideas that will save you money and the planet, too, ensuring that it will continue to snow for years to come. And there’s a bonus: You won’t have a ton of credit card bills to weigh you down at the start of the New Year! Imagine that. Of course, a lot of us have already been hit really hard and the concept of a credit card with available credit is only a memory. For you, these ideas are even more intelligent and useful. And if you’re worried about the kids, that they won’t have the same experience and come away harmed in some way, then I’ve got ideas that will help you with that problem, too. The entire family can get in on Christmas in new and exciting ways which cannot help but tighten the family bonds and enhance the holiday experience. Believe me, these are worth a try. And you might not ever go back to the “old way” again.

When you finally wake up out of the consumerism “daze” and start living life outside that box, it can be a truly wonderful and exciting experience. It allows for great personal expression, creativity, spontaneity and offers unlimited chances to express love. You are creative in ways you never imagined and even if you aren’t, these ideas don’t take Picasso or Martha Stewart to make them work. I have easy step by step instructions that will tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. And none of this stuff is nearly as hard as gassing up the car on a cold winters night and rushing off to a Mall full of crazy people. In fact, you can start doing some of it now, here and there, easy goes it and make the week before Christmas a time for baking cookies, reading to the kids and having dinner at home. Here are the 7 six easy steps you can start today:

Step One: Make most of the gifts you will give this year. You need to start doing this now. Ok, I am sure there are some people you just have to buy a certain something for, like jewelry for a special someone or a gameboy for one of the kids, but if you think about it there are many people on your list that you end up just buying something, anything at the last minute. Do you realize that most of that stuff ends up at Goodwill or in the landfill? I cannot tell you how many New Years were soured by the fact that I saw a lot of my gifts at the front door of the charity. Many a homeless person went off wearing jackets I bought for relatives and dresses I bought for friends. Do you really know what everyone wants? Sure, the kids are screaming for an Xbox or a Bratz Doll but are you going to always buy them these commercial toys? Can you afford to? Start planning out now those people you are going to gift this year and we’ll cover what to make for them later on.

Step Two: Collect and save some of the old boxes from your pantry. You don’t have to save EVERY single one, but you should set aside very small boxes like the ones for bullion cubes or candy; medium sized boxes like the ones for rice or macaroni and cheese; and larger boxes like cereal boxes and boxes for Mexican food kits. You get the idea? Save some of each. Why? You are going to use these for your Christmas wrappings and you need a variety depending on the kind of gifts you may make or purchase. Don’t worry, they’ll look great because I have ideas for wrapping which I will tell you later on. If you know what you are getting or making for each and every person, then you can set aside those sorts of boxes. Even some of the stuff you buy in the store doesn’t come with a box. Clothing, decorative items, music, memorabilia and some other commercial items come without their own box. So save up those pantry boxes and keep them aside until it’s time to wrap. You will save yourself money and save the planet more garbage in the process.

Step Three: Plan out what items you are going to make and what items you are going to buy. For the stuff you are going to buy, you should shop early to get the best prices. August is a good time to start looking for those gifts and if you can’t just buy them right now, put them on lay away. This way you secure non-seasonal prices for the gifts and can take some time paying them off, without interest or penalty. And the best bonus of all: these items won’t be on the credit card bills in January. For items that you can’t layaway and can’t afford to buy early, I would suggest some reconsideration. Is there a similar substitute? Would this person enjoy something else? I didn’t get every gift I cried for when I was a kid and I’m sure you didn’t, either. It won’t hurt your children to have something cheaper or even something homemade. It teaches them the right principles against all the crap society is spoiling them with. If this is just not feasible and you really want to buy that child this expensive gift, then counter balance it with other gifts that are less expensive or even homemade. But start your shopping early and start planning out the items you are going to make in advance, as well.

Step Four: Start making up those homemade items the week after Thanksgiving. The size and scope of the projects you choose will depend upon your own talents and abilities. Painting, sculpting, molding and wood crafting take some experience. But making wreaths, dolls, herbal vinegars, homemade massage oils, edibles, some toys, handwoven baskets and many other crafty things don’t take any special skill at all. And, of course, if you have a special skill such as gourmet baking, drawing or painting, sewing, quilting, etc… or unusual talents such as with Astrology or Palmistry, consider making gifts that utilize these skills. Everyone loves a personalized yearly prediction or a painting of their family. I will have recipes for making old fashioned dolls, wreaths, massage oils, edibles and handmade crafting items all the time on this blog up until Christmas and after. Take stock of everyone you are gifting this year and make a list of what you wish to make and for who. Go over the recipes carefully and forage or shop when you have the time for the items you will need. If you go at it slowly and get most of what you need from nature you can really cut costs this year and help the planet along mightily at the same time.

Step Five: Christmas trees can be a problem if you don’t handle it right. Plastic trees are fine, just don’t toss them out every few years. Pass the old one along to people who otherwise wouldn’t even have a tree. And do not just buy new all the time! Plastic trees can be bad for the planet; they end up in the landfill and it takes petroleum (yes, gas!) to make new ones. So it is wiser and kinder to use a live one, believe it or not. Live trees can be recycled if you follow your county regulations for doing so. There is often a day when the tree should be set out and they will come and get them. They then grind them into mulch and give the mulch away in the Spring. So you can also get free garden mulch later on if you just take care to recycle those trees! You can also grind the tree up yourself, if you have the right equipment, and use the mash as mulch yourself. Although the growing of Christmas Trees does take up arable land and usable resources, any growing of trees is not bad for the planet overall. Trees enrich the soil and they clean a lot of the pollution out of the air. In fact, planting trees is a great gift to the earth. And the careful returning of the chopped down Christmas tree back to the earth through recycling is another gift that the Earth really appreciates.

Step Six: The problem with your tree isn’t really the tree anyways. It’s the tinsel and garland stuff that you hang all over it and toss into the trash afterwards. You should avoid all of this crap this year if you can; no tinsel, plastic garlands, metallic bows, metal bulb hangers, etc… The tree topper is usually ok because it can be kept and reused for years but all the junk that gets broken, crushed, torn apart or otherwise damaged and has to be tossed is just more garbage and makes a huge carbon footprint. So make every effort to buy keeper ornaments like wooden ones with string hangers or collectible heirlooms you can pass on to your kids. Glass ornaments can be crushed and recycled but the metal hangers are just rust for the landfill. Reuse the hangers as long as possible if you do buy glass. Plastic tinsel and garland is a fair solution if you choose to keep it and reuse it for years. Otherwise, natural garlands made of fresh pine and paper tinsel that can be recycled are some solutions. But the best garland and tinsel in my opinion is made of food: try popcorn, nuts, candy, etc.. as homemade tinsel and garland and then eat them up or toss them into the mulch when the season is over.

Step Seven: Last but not least: reduce packaging and warp. You can easily replace wrapping paper with fabric and do it for free. Go through the closet for all those clothes, linens, towels and other fabric items that are headed for goodwill, the trash or the rag bin. Locate those items in red, green and with pretty patterns. Cut out fabric to size for the boxes you have chosen and using fusable webbing, iron the fabric onto the boxes. This is really easy and super fast. It seems like work but once you do it, it’s a breeze! You can even lay out the boxes, iron on the fabric (per the fusable webbing instructions) and then cut away the extra around the edges before folding the box back into shape. Then you put your gifts into the boxes and tape them shut! No paper, no last minute wrapping, no tape! And if you want to make up bows, simply tie strips of matching fabric into bows and glue them on the box. I’m dead serious. This makes really festive and interesting gift packaging that no one will ever forget. If you want flashy, iron on mirror gold or silver giftwrap (yes you can give in on this one) and then reuse the boxes year after year. And the last reduction of waste comes when you either buy or make your gifts. If you buy gifts, try to buy stuff that doesn’t come in a box. And use your ready made gift boxes. You’ll be amazed at how little trash this creates and how much money you save, as well. In the end, you have a family Christmas filled more with love than with commercialism and you will enjoy it.

These ideas can all be done very easily and with little trouble if you do a little planning and start early. I will be posting many great homemade gift ideas on the blog along with packaging and wrapping ideas. I also have big money and planet saving ideas for Halloween and Thanksgiving. This year could be the first of a new family tradition that could change things in your life for many years to come!

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