The holidays are just around the corner and that means lots of excess and waste. It’s that time of year when many folks will spend entirely too much on stuff they don’t need and they will pay little if any attention to how their purchases will impact the environment. It is not just the products themselves either, with their cheap plastic and toxic materials. It is also packaging…the boxes, the plastic, and the paper. It’s the holiday cards (2.6 billion sold annually) and the store gifts cards that we send and receive. All of it will end up in the landfill after the merriment is over. Most people will probably not even give all that garbage much thought as they take it to the curb. Yet according to the Clean Air Council, 5 million tons of additional waste is generated during the holidays, just in the US. How can we not see that this is a huge problem??
Well, some of us do see. There is definitely a small movement seeking to be bring simplicity and minimalism back to the holidays instead of rampant consumerism and mindless waste. We can be more conscious consumers by making a few small changes. I list three below…
Reusable Gift Bags
There are fabric gift bags on the market that take the place of wrapping paper. They can be reused again and again so if you have a nice supply you can simply reuse the bags for your family each year. Buy unique prints specific to each family member and you don’t even need to label or otherwise identify the gifts. Everyone will know what gifts are theirs. Instead of filling a black garbage bag with wrapping paper and disposable gifts bags you can gather up your fabric bags and put them away with the holiday decorations, until the following year. VZ Wraps has a great selection of fabric gifts bags all made with an eye on sustainability. They have standard, medium, large, and wine sizes. I love how you can click on each size (in the right sidebar of their web site) to see what kinds of gifts will fit in each bag. Great feature! The large will fit gifts such as blenders and gaming consoles. They also have a large selection of holiday prints…everything from ornaments, to poinsettias and snowflakes.
I love how EASY wrapping is when you use fabric bags. Booyah!
Ditch the Party Disposables
If you are hosting any parties this holiday season, make it a goal to ditch all disposable plates, glasses, and utensils. Use your own tableware and simply ask guests for a hand in cleaning up afterwards. If you don’t have enough you can get some at thrift stores. I think mismatched table settings can be made to look quite fetching. Seriously, just look up ‘mismatched table settings’ on Pinterest. You will be amazed. Alternatively you can ask guests to bring their own. This is done in Europe often so why not here?
Change Up Your Traditions
Evaluate meaningful traditions to see if they are wasteful. An advent calendar may be one example. Do you buy new ones each year that need to be thrown away or do you have a reusable one? I love an idea I heard from Isabelle of VZ Wraps (mentioned above). She told me about her advent calendar tradition awhile back and I thought it would be lovely to share here:
Our advent calendar hangs on the door and has a little pouch for each day. Instead of giving candy or a treat each day, we decided to do a little something for each other instead. We would fill out little slips of paper that said “Today for ____________, I will _____________.” Since there are four of us in our family and 24 days of advent, we would each fill out two slips for each other – I’d do two slips for my husband and two each for my two kids – mix them up in a bowl, and put one into each pouch. The idea was to keep it simple with a fun little way to spend time together or make life a little easier for each other. For instance, I’d often put on my husband’s slips that I’d give him a back rub or take out the trash. For the kids, it might be reading them an extra book at bedtime or letting them choose what to have for dinner. The key was something that you could do any day. My husband used to get a little too enthusiastic and offer the kids a trip to the bowling alley or bookstore, but he couldn’t always come through with that activity the day the slip was picked, especially if it was on a school night with a lot of homework! We would all look forward to picking a slip each morning before school, and it was a fun way to ensure spending time with each other during a super-busy time of year.
I love how she reuses the same calendar each year and how she has made the season about spending time with each other and doing things for each other rather than eating candy or getting gifts.
A few small changes and a little planning can have a big impact this time of year. What ways have you lowered your family’s impact during the holidays??
I was super stoked to see Plan Toys appear on Zulily today. After Amazon it is probably my number one place to shop. Lately I think Zulily has been kicking Amazon booty. They just have so much good stuff for such great prices.
As I mentioned, Plan Toys are being offered and they have been my favorite place to get eco friendly, quality, wood toys for many years now. My daughter has their dollhouses and my youngest son has several of their race tracks and click clack toys. Here are my top five choices for Christmas toys this year…
Ride-On Racing Car – How cute is this????! My youngest boy would be over the moon to get his under the tree.
Dino Explorer Set – I have a dinosaur lover in the house and sadly most dino toys on the market are plastic but not these…
Tree House Set – All kids love tree houses right? I think this set would a nice addition beyond the standard dollhouse.
This nifty animal puzzle - Helps little ones develop planning and analytical abilities, along with the ability to learn and follow rules. Its accessible game play challenges sweeties to identify, sort and group four different animals.
Crane Set – What boy doesn’t love a crane? I think my youngest kiddo would have hours of fun playing with this sweet toy. This award-winning set provides many opportunities for little ones to think about and plan their own work.
Shop for toys, books and more at zulily this Holiday Season
A guest post by Sam Peters
Even though my husband set me up with an amazing aromatherapy massage and seaweed wrap for Mother’s Day, he insists that all he wants for Father’s Day is the laughter of his little girls. Sweet sentiment, but he’s still getting gifts. I went to my daughters for their ideas: my youngest insisted that we get him a tiger and my oldest swore up and down that he told her that he wanted a tuutuu, bless her little lying heart. My girls are a trip.
My husband, the father of the year in my opinion, who takes time off work to be a room “mother” with me and tosses a football around out with my daughters calling them Lil Namath and Lil Montana deserves a something extra special on the day designed to honor him. I’ve been busy choosing between a wide variety of great gifts that don’t dent the earth and suit his personality.
Dixon Golf out of Tempe, AZ produces an eco-friendly line of balls called Dixon Earth. The balls are 100% recyclable. Dixon pays for returned balls. Sustainability informs everything that this company does, they encourage their employees to carpool to work and have outfitted their manufacturing facility with LED lightbulbs and low-VOC paint. Dixon even encourages golfers to go after that sliced ball by providing up to a $6 return for a dozen used golf balls.
Even though my daughter insists there is room for a tiger in the treehouse out back, I believe the laws in our jurisdiction against the keeping of exotic animals prevent her dreams of tiger ownership from becoming a reality. As a compromise, I found that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) offers the adoption of endangered and threatened animals. On making a donation we may help protect and symbolically adopt a tiger or a three toed sloth or a host of other animals. Donations go to support WWF’s mission to prevent threats like poachers, deforestation, and global climate change from impacting the biodiversity of the planet.
If you look at my husband’s dental chart, all of his teeth are sweet teeth. Shari’s Berries has an amazing line of chocolate covered strawberries and delicious cookies available to be shipped right to your door, including some super cute strawberries dipped to look like baseballs, footballs, and basketballs for Father’s Day!
My girls decided to collect and recycle pretty paper they received throughout the year. The paper makes great handmade greeting cards, but they decided to use it to make a sweet little scrapbook full of collages of their favorite memories with their dad. So far the book includes learning to ride bicycles, playing hide and seek, and my husband flexing his muscles. They think it’s hilarious!
My girls and I plan a great Father’s Day in addition to the gift giving. After a pancake breakfast, we’re going to go on a long family hike on a nearby trail. We look forward to lavishing him with praise and pampering. Hope your holiday with your husbands and fathers is a great one!
The term holistic (or wholistic) refers to addressing the whole person…mentally, socially, and physically. We usually think of it in terms of alternative medicine that treats the whole person and not just a symptom or a disease as does conventional medicine. Valentine’s Day though is a wonderful time to embrace this concept as well – to embrace the heart, mind, and body of your sweetie. Here are some ideas for a holistic Valentine’s Day:
1. Go to a holistic spa for a treatment together, or buy such a treatment for your lover. At a holistic spa, you typically receive a massage of some sort – Swedish massages, hot stone, or reflexology perhaps? Some spas offer beauty treatments and other pampering, romantic treatments. If you think your male partner may not be into spa stuff just sit and watch the movie Mansome with him first. If Justin Bateman and Will Arnett are down with it, how can he not be??? One of the best date nights my hubby and I had was a session at an acupressure clinic after dinner and before our movie. So relaxing!
2. Chocolate is holistic and appropriate for this romantic holiday if you get the right kind. It has to be very dark chocolate to reap health benefits and organic and fair trade if at all possible to address the social issues of making/eating chocolate. You would be horrified (I hope) to have blood diamonds but did you also know that the chocolate industry is is heavily involved in slave labor? Remember…dark, fair trade, and if possible, organic.
3. Prepare a romantic meal for two with local, organic food. A holistic philosophy embraces humanity’s connection to nature, and organic food grown locally, with its respect for natural methods and the environment, supports that idea. This is also a great budget idea if you cannot afford to drop $200 on a fancy dinner, which probably isn’t going to be organic or local. If you want to watch a movie at home you can always use Netflix to stream socially conscious movies too. There are many in their catalog.
4. Candles help set the mood on Valentine’s Day, whether it’s for a special meal or just time together. In keeping with the holistic theme, use soy candles or beeswax candles that are more environmentally responsible and non-toxic.
5. Natural essential oils can help set the mood with pure scents. Use these instead of artificially-scented candles or other synthetic smells. For ideas check out my post on Easy Ways to Use Healing Aromatherapy Oils in the Home, it has some ideas for scenting the home with plant oils.
6. Roses may be traditional gifts, but cut roses are rather wasteful. Give a live rose bush instead – the miniature, potted roses look very pretty and can be kept in a container or planted in the garden in the spring. This is the kind of gift that keeps on giving long after valentines. Other live plant ideas include indoor plants that will enhance air quality, or a tree seedling that can be planted in the spring.
7. Not all gifts have to be something you can hold in your hand. Give a gift that addresses your partner’s love of social justice by donating to a good cause in their name. Might I recommend WaterAid?
8. Give your significant other some homemade beauty aids, like a salt scrub or flax seed hair gel (mix 1 tablespoon flax seeds with 1 cup water, microwave for 2 minutes, steep for at least an hour, then strain). A homemade beauty recipe, holistic care book would be good too. For women I recommend Green Beauty Recipes and for men Whole Man: Unleashing the Potential of the Modern Man. Both are excellent.
9. Speaking of homemade, consider making your own Valentine’s treats that are healthy and holistic. Dip strawberries in organic chocolate, make homemade fudge, chocolate nests, or make these yummy Peanut Butter Carob Balls (can use almond butter instead of peanut butter too). Make your own pink icing with natural ingredients (cream cheese, egg whites, whipped cream, pureed strawberries, cherry juice, etc.) to make it more festive.
10. Purchase Valentine’s cards made from recycled paper, or make your own. Get creative and use scrap paper, or make your own paper from old newspapers and junk mail that have been shredded, soaked, and blended into pulp. Add some seeds to your homemade paper and you can plant them afterwards.
Have a happy and holistic Valentine’s Day!!
The other day I was searching for a few children’s gift ideas and card ideas for Valentine’s Day that did not feel cheap and junky. It seems to me that most gift ideas nowadays are plastic and cheap looking but I wanted some ideas with a “classic” or “vintage” feel…throwbacks to simpler days when gifts were made to last and be treasured. I also wanted something candy free and I think I managed to find a few treasures that fit the bill. These were some of the gift ideas I bookmarked:
1. Felt Heart Boxes – These felt boxes are shaped like hearts and can hold small treasures. I also love the vintage, homemade feel of them. They look like something my grandmother would have owned.
2. OM Heart Figurines – How adorable are these?? Each of these little hand-molded clay statues has a name and a story, and stands as a totem for love.
3. Vintage Valentine’s Day Cards – These beautiful cards are works of art and they are 3D with moving parts so truly unique. I just adore the elephant one.
4. Felt Heart Pouches – Your kiddos can use these for pencils, money, or virtually any kind of treasure. The pouches are handmade of Nepalese wool felt with a heart motif and a zipper pull. Fair trade.
5. Alice in Wonderland Tea Set – If your little one loves tea parties then he or she will love this tea set inspired by the classic children’s book.
6. Heart Shaped Nesting Boxes – Each box has a special message! Place small treats and treasures in these lovely heart boxes with nostalgic vintage-style images and ribbon edging.
7. Gypsy Caravan – A lovely gift for either a boy or a girl this set is whimsical and cute. Ithas a richly printed cover and a small hitch on back to attach a wagon train. The wagon is pulled by a solid wood horse and driven by a solid wood gypsy/pioneer/outlaw.
8. Heat Sailboat – Love this!! Give your little sweethearts a sweet sailboat. This little boat is sturdy enough for a small child and can be used in the tub, or any body of water. A safe and non-toxic alternative to plastic bath toys, and for outings to the puddle filled park.
9. Vintage Hair Clips – These are fun and practical with a vintage feel for your classy little lady. They are hand-crafted from vintage Japanese silk kimonos and are shaped as “ume” or Japanese plum blossoms. Plum blossoms are a favorite motif in Japan representing early springtime. Each hair clip is one-of-a-kind.