Saturday, November 28, 2009

All I want for Christmas - or, I'm dreaming of a Green Christmas, prt II

By popular demand (or..not) I'm blogging my green & easy low budget Christmas (or anytime) wish list.

Cards - preferably made from recycled paper - are great. If your can't think of what to say, why not just write one thing you like about me? A friend of mine did that once and it was such a nice card she didn't need to get me anything else.

Donations are great. You can give any amount and there are charities or groups out there to support any interest. I've donated to a poor school so they could buy books in honor of my dad, and through Oxfam I've donated money so a family could get mosquito nets in honor of my brother.

Time is free, but it can be the hardest to give. I'd love it if my mom and grandmother could come down for the holidays, and I wouldn't need anything else. (ok, they'd have to buy a ticket)

Gift Certificates are usually pretty easy (although unfortunately they often come on unbiodegradable plastic) though a bit impersonal. Spa gift certificates are a no-brainer for women. (and the Little Green Spa in Orlando is green & great!) The first time I went to Ethos was because of a gift certificate - and luckily theirs (and many other small businesses) are paper.

If you make a mean pesto, or delicious cookies, edible gifts can be cheap to make and are well received.

As I try to green up my house and life I am trying to cut down on the amount of things I own that are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. Plus, living in a tiny apartment, I am trying to have as little "stuff" as possible.

As to wrapping, personally I go with "free". I have a little box where I keep bows and ribbons and tissue paper etc from gifts I receive, and I use them along with inside out grocery bags to wrap gifts. This year I've wrapped a few things in strictly tissue paper. Since its so light it only needs one piece of tape - or no tape and a piece of ribbon to hold it together. I think the result is attractive, and it makes me happy knowing I've saved something from the trash. When I did not have any old ribbon to reuse, I've used plain hemp twine, or coloured raffia.

Also, if you are shipping your gifts, consider eco-friendly mailers. Typical manila envelopes are not recyclable (so I've read) due to the high ink content, but at most office stores (Staples, Target..) you can find recycled/recyclable mailers which use paper padding instead of bubbles, and are made from post consumer content recycled materials. I forgot to mention it in the "comments" section at, and the last book I ordered came in a nasty plastic mailer. Why?!

Now, if you have a bigger budget, I'd like a larger kitchen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a wonderful nondenominaitonal holiday

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and although I will not really be participating (no cooking, or get togethers for me - just work), I do love the day. Thanksgiving is one of the few secular but wildly celebrated holidays. Who can not love a holiday that is based upon good food, and reflecting upon what you have to be thankful for. I do not know what percentage of families sit down to their bounty and think at all about what they have to be thankful for, or how many just gorge themselves and watch football.
I love the food you eat once or twice a year, the family togetherness (not so much the stress), and the meaning behind it. People helping people, and gratitude for what you have.

This year I am grateful to have a good job, my health, and a home. I remind my self of the job part often at work (at least I have a job, with benefits.. it could be worse!). I am grateful for my friends and my family. I'm also happy for the time I have spent in Florida, and the chance to get to know a beautiful state.

The flip side of course is that Thanksgiving heralds Christmas. Shopping and travel or work and hum bug. I love Christmas and the holiday season when I am with my family...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In search of a "green" Christmas tree

Halloween has just ended, and stores and theme parks are decorating for.. Christmas. Yes, Thanksgiving has not yet come, and it has been pushed aside in place of the impending holidays. And so, although the holiday is more than a month away, I find myself offhandedly planning for Christmas. Eco cards and eco gifts and the one that has still eluded me, the eco tree.

I love live Christmas trees, but as I live in an ultra tiny apartment, I do not think I could get a cut one small enough. This thought - the necessary smallness of the tree - naturally leads me to think of Emmit Otter and their "Christmas branch". Why cut down a whole tree? I could decorate just a branch instead! The pitifulness of a Christmas branch actually appeals to me. I worked at a.. plant place once (not garden center, what would one call The Organized Jungle?) and at Christmas time we sold trees. In order to get them ready a certain amount of trimming was necessary, and they were more than happy to give away the trimmings. So, I suppose I could find someplace that sells trees and get a few branches for free (they lasted forever in a vase of water and made great wreaths).

Actual live trees (or shaped shrubs or rosemary) with roots are an excellent choice and they are the right size, but I have no yard or porch for it to live on. I don't think one could even survive in my apartment until after Christmas when I could give it away. If you have the space for it though, rosemary trees can be easily transplanted in the yard and require only well drained soil and sun. Another great option is the Easter Red Cedar which is native to Florida, is drought tolerant, and resembles has a Christmas tree shape when young.

Recently I fell in love with tacky artificial trees, and it is in that direction that I am looking this year. I like the look of some tinsel trees, but as I can not find out what they are made of, I have decided to go with something that has perhaps started the tacky Christmas tree tradition: the Aluminum Christmas Tree. If I get a vintage one its reused so no raw materials or energy were used to produce it, its recyclable, and probably biodegradable too. I'm not sure how it will look with some eco ornaments (I think aluminum trees look best with tacky retro ornaments) but I'll let you know!

Another tree option I've fallen in love with is the feather tree. To me they actually look less tacky than tinsel or fake trees. If they're white they make me think of soft fallen snow. I say white because I think it was a pink feather tree that made me fall in love with them. My hesitation with feather trees comes from the fact that I do not know if they are cruelty free or not. How are the feathers acquired? Does someone gather them as they fall, or are they plucked? How green is a feather tree? I have to do more research. I hope they are green, because the glory of getting a two foot or less tree, is that you have room for more.

Christmas tree option number five is very simple, minimalist and affordable. Back in the days when I was an interior plant maintainer I got to explore some very interesting upper class homes. One of my favourties was the house of Ed and Ed. They had great taste in art and since I had their key and came early, I never saw them (except the time I came too early...). I do not remember any of my clients Christmas Trees, except Ed and Ed's. One, (I do not remember if it was real or artificial) had a teddy bear theme, but the other was the best idea for an eco friendly affordable tree. It was simply a few large branches with smooth black bark (beech?) stuck into a plain black pot decorated with glass icicles and little else. As I'd rather not spray paint the branches, my only question is from what kind of tree should I get these branches? Something with a smooth bark, and strong enough to support a few ornaments.

Or, I'll be the grinch, and there will be no tree.
But if I do get one, I will add pictures when I find it!

which is more important? i.e. which would you choose at the exclusion of the other?