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Happy (Green) Holidays from TeachingGreen!   

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Happy Holidays from TeachingGreen!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Eggnog, Christmas carols, snowmen, entire towns lit up with up twinkling lights. A truly special time indeed, and one that all too often comes with a healthy dose of stress and expense as well.

The commercialization of Christmas has created a special breed of stressed-out, cash-strapped consumer, one who buys things for the sake of crossing names off lists. Sure, the frenzy of the holiday shopping season is unhealthy for the shopper, but the toll it takes on our planet is significant. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Americans generate 25 Holiday presentspercent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's than during the entire rest of the year. That's 25 percent more trash going to landfills and 25 percent more natural resources being mined, logged and otherwise taken from the natural world.

In an effort to help you enjoy a more relaxed holiday season that is easier on the environment, here are six great gift ideas that will save money, time, natural resources, or all three.

  Duty_CallsSix Great Green Gift Ideas

The Gift of Babysitting

Does your holiday shopping list include parents of school-age children who live relatively nearby? If so, what better gift to give than three or four hours of free babysitting? With the price of food up significantly in the past couple of years and a movie now costing Date nightupwards of $12.00, date night has become an expensive proposition. Add the price of a babysitter, and the drain on the bank account can be downright painful.

The gift of babysitting is economically valuable, to be sure; it's not uncommon to pay $16/hour for a babysitter these days. But perhaps even more important, with this gift, you will be giving the peace of the mind that comes with knowing the kids are in good hands.

A few hours spent watching the kids and you will have given what most parents need most: some time alone to reconnect. And as a parent, I can tell you that this is one gift that will be happily accepted, not soon forgotten, and never returned for store credit.

The Regifted Gift

With our culture of gift-giving, once in a while we end up with something we can't use, don't like or both. When such a gift cannot be returned for store credit, ask yourself if it might make a good gift for a friend or loved one down the road. Carefully thought-out regifting can be as good as the real deal. And what they don't know, can't hurt them, right?

The Gift of Paperless BooksAmazon Kindle

With the booming popularity of electronic readers, chances are high that someone on your holiday shopping list has a Kindle, Nook or iOS device (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch). So why not buy that special someone the gift of electronic books? Here's how:
  • Kindle: Any Amazon gift card can be used to purchase books from the Kindle store.
  • Nook: Gift certificates for NOOKbooks, single issue NOOKmagazines, or single issue NOOKnewspapers can be purchased at any Barnes & Noble bookseller or at www.barnesandnoble.com.
  • iOS: A prepaid iTunes Gift Card can be purchased from the Apple Online Store, any Apple Retail Store, or any of the thousands of U.S. retailers that sell the card.  

The Unobtainable Tasty Treat

Have you ever heard a visiting relative or friend comment on a certain edible item, wishing it was available in his or her home town? Food makes a wonderful, Earth-friendly gift, especially if it's something that the receiver has no way of buying at home.

The Hand-Me-Down Gift    

With visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, the holiday season, or at least the gift-giving that comes with it, is all about the children. And anyone with kids will tell you that the onslaught of gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends can be overwhelming, especially for the eco-minded among us.


If you are a parent who cringes at the heaps of new toys (and the packaging that comes with them) that flood your home every time Christmas or a birthday rolls around, don't be afraid to ask for gently reused gifts, especially when specifically asked what your kiddo needs. Even if the giver doesn't have any hand-me-down toys and clothes to give, they can be bought at a Goodwill or Salvation Army store or requested through Freecycle.org.

The Wearable, Reusable Gift Wrap
Furoshiki gift wrapping

Even with all the great green gifts that require no real wrapping - movie tickets, a gift certificate for a massage, a home-cooked meal, to name just a few - sometimes there's no getting around a gift that needs to be wrapped. One way to avoid the wasted paper and ribbon of conventionally wrapped gifts is to use the ancient Japanese technique of Furoshiki gift wrapping.

Whether wrapping books, bottles, or chocolates, as seen here, Furoshiki is a simple and beautiful way to wrap gifts using a single piece of cloth. Use a scarf, and it can be reused again and again as a fashion accessory. Use a simple piece of cloth, and with a quick lesson on Furoshiki wrapping, it can be reused to wrap another gift. And so on. Just thinking about all the wrapping paper that single piece of cloth could replace is making my spirits brighter already.

Kathleen Jacecko

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and green holiday season!

Kathleen Jacecko