Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Have Yourself A Greener Little Christmas

I live in Minnesota where the weather is ummm... brisk. We have six inches of fresh powder and heavily dressed Santas on every street corner. The perfect Christmas location, right? And yet I'm dreaming of a tropical paradise.

I, like many people, though, am worried that paradise is slipping through our fingers.

Still, I get odd looks every time I insist on using clothe bags for my purchases or ask for my beverage in a ceramic cup, but I believe it’s worth the effort. Especially since I learned that approximately 250 billion pounds of raw plastic pellets are produced every year.

In view of that astounding figure I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that marine biologists have recently discovered “a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that's twice the size of Texas. The enormous stew of trash, which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man's land between San Francisco and Hawaii.”

According to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, most of this debris has blown in from land and is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year.

So, in a hopeful gesture of Yuletide good will, I’d like to suggest some tips for making all our holidays greener.

Green Shopping:
Avoid disposable or cheaply made products.
Bring your own shopping bag.
Coordinate your shopping trips to save time and gas.
Avoid gifts with excessive packaging.
Purchase handcrafted goods from local artisans.

Green Gifts:
Give an experience:
Dinner at a restaurant
Memberships to an establishment of interest
Classes or lessons

Make a charity donation in the receivers’ name.
Volunteer to babysit, do chores, or make dinner.
Give gifts that “go away”--wine, candles, food, etc.
Agree to go giftless.

Green Cards and Wrap:
Reuse gift wrap.
Use newspaper, old posters, maps, or sheet music
Use a cloth bag, bandana, or leftover fabric.
Send your holiday e-cards.
Recycle holiday cards.

Green Decorating:
Buy LED lights.
Buy a potted pine to use year round.
Use trimmed branches for decorating and making wreaths.
String popcorn and cranberries.
Recycle your tree.

Green Parties:
Send e-vites for your holiday parties.
Use reusable tableware.
Buy party clothes from consignment shops.
Recycle evvvvvverything you can.
Compost your food scraps.
Turn down the heat before the guests come.
Serve organic local foods.

There are also a number of grand ideas for making your own health and beauty products. Here are a few that intrigue me:

Body Scrub Recipe from Cosmo Magazine
Mix the juice of half a lime, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and a shot of rum. Dip the other half of the lime into the scrub and massage your skin with it in a circular motion. Rinse and voila! Your skin will be totally smooth and silky.

Tooth Powder Recommended By a Dentist
Hydrogen peroxide (a few drops)
Baking soda
Directions: Make a paste by combining the two ingredients. Use this paste on your teeth and also gently rub along your gums two times a week.

Banana Wrinkle Fighter Recipe
Banana is wonderful as an anti-wrinkle treatment. Mash 1/4 banana until very creamy. Spread all over face and leave for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off with warm water followed by a dash of cold. Gently pat dry.

Grape Cleanser Recipe
Grape juice makes an excellent cleanser for any skin type. Simply split one or two large grapes, remove pips and rub the flesh over face and neck. Rinse off with cool water.

Hair Egg Conditioner Recipe
1 teaspoon baby oil
1 egg yolk
1 cup water
Beat the egg yolk until its frothy, add the oil then beat again. Add to the water. Massage into the scalp and throughout your hair. Rinse well.

Shampoo Recipe
In a blender, combine 1 ounce olive oil, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar. Use as regular shampoo.

So how about you? Got any fabulous recipes or clever ideas that will help us avoid those millions of plastic bottles and tubes that are clogging our waterways and killing our wildlife? I’d love to hear them.

And because I was so inspired by Kathy’s post a couple of days ago, I’ve decided to try my hand at making cloth grocery bags. I’ll be giving one of them away to some kindly commenter (when they’re finished:) who agrees to try to reduce their plastic bag consumption and make this it a greener, cleaner 2009.

Merry Christmas everyone. May the upcoming holidays be your best yet. And thanks for being part of the Riding community.


Jane said...

Those are all wonderful ideas. I haven't bought bottled water in months. I've replaced all my bulbs with CFLs. I will probably buy gift bags instead of wrapping each individual present. I don't have any beauty recipes, but I keep hearing how vinegar is great for cleaning everything. You can save money by buying vinegar instead of all those more expensive cleaning products which might be harmful for the environment.

FIONA said...

Great ideas, Lois.

I was using reusable bags before they were cool. We have three bags that are 19 years old. The others are our souvenirs from various trips. They store easily in the coat closet.

Jane, I have to clean with vinegar because my youngest son is allergic to most cleaning products. It works well, and is easy to store. Best of all---safe for kids and pets.

As for "greener" parties--we bought extra flatware and plates at thrift stores. Nothing matches, but there are plenty of everything for even large gatherings. Some people even give me unusual plates and cups they find in thrift stores to add to the collection.

Yes, there is more storage involved, but that is something I'm willing to do.

Maureen said...

Our supermarket sells reusable bags which I've bought and used but I see hardly any other people using them when I shop there. I think more people will use them once they start charging for them like they do in IKEA.

MaryF said...

We've started using the reusable grocery bags and have replaced our lightbulbs. We also participate in the Windtricity program through our local utility. Our tree is fake, and I RARELY use paper plates. Our city has a good recycling program, so I have hardly any real garbage anymore! And gift bags are just so easy to use, and reuse!

I love the recipes! I've made the scrub before and loved it.

Laurie said...

I work in a Publix grocery store in Florida. We sell cloth bags for 99c. People are slowly coming around to the idea of cloth bags. Visitors from NH & VT say that they are required to use baskets or cloth bags. visitors from France & Italy bring mess bags. We really need to continue to recycle too.

Laurie said...

OOps should have been mesh bags!!

Liza said...

I have several cloth bags, but need to get a few more to cover my shopping. I do always worry about bring my cloth Target bags into other stores, but so far everyone has been good(plus the Target bags fold up and are heavier than other bags).

I'm starting to switch over all my lightbulbs and making sure when I replace appliances/tvs/dvd players, I buy the energy saver models. I live in an apartment, so I can't really control most of the appliances.

Getting a Brita filter or other water filter will really help out with not buying bottled water.

Kylie said...

We switched to the new bulbs several months ago. I resolve to stop complaining about them :) But they take sooooo long to brighten up after you turn them on and my eyes are not as young as they used to be. One of these days I'm going to stub something.

We recently got a reusable bag which we're keeping in the vehicle since neither of us would remember to bring it otherwise.

For my dh, I encourage my kids to give events rather than gifts (he's so hard to buy for). I was thrilled when I suggested a Hawkeye basketball ticket to one son and he got all excited, purchased two tickets, alerted the rest of the kids and morphed the event into a weekend for the entire family, as they'll be joining us. Of course, it occurs that means we'll end up footing the majority of the bill--I guess that's a gift that keeps on giving--for them, LOL!

lois greiman said...

Jane, yes, vinegar and soda. I do almost all my cleaning (which, okay is almost nonexistent) with those two ingredients. I'm told in Europe they're much better about using natural cleaners partly because their pipes are too old to handle chemicals.

Dina said...

I'd love to redce my plastic bad if I won this cute bag.

Keri Ford said...

I have never thought of cleaning with vinegar! That is such a mind slip for me. I always look for 'safe for babies' and such on my products. I'm going to the store today, so I'll pick some up.

I have been dumping a lot of lemon juice in my washing machine instead of hard cleaners-like bleach. Course, I need to make buttermilk yesterday but was out of lemon juice!

A year or two ago, my sister sent me a birthday card and she forgot to sign it. I sent it back her on her birthday, unsigned. I'm waiting to see if she remembers the card come my birthday.

Michele Hauf said...

Lois, you know I'm so on board with it all. Haven't touched a plastic bag since I gave them up last year around this time. Turned the thermostat down to 'survivable'. Recycle wherever I go (church dinner I stayed after and picked all the plastic and styrofoam out of the garbage and took home with me). I've even trained the hubby so well he's picking stuff out of garbages now too.
I went through my cosmetics a few years back and threw out all the bad stuff (which was basically everything). Now only natural stuff hits my skin.

My next goal? Reduce all my stuff. We all have too much stuff, don't we?

Kaylee said...

Here in the metro Atlanta area, those cloth bags are becoming in vogue.

EllenToo said...

Since I live on a bay and neat a national seashore I see the results of trash in the ocean..One of the rare species of turtles (Kemps Ridley) nests on our beaches and every year we see one or more of the females who are coming ashore to nest that are tangled up in plastic rings of the kind used to hold beverage cans together and other debrie. We even see turtles with injury come ashore. Having said that I will say that I have started using reusable cloth bags and that our major grocery store had them available for a very small purchase price and I see more and more people using them.

lunaticcafe said...

I am so excited to see that more people are going green. We reuse any plastic that comes our way, shop with cloth bags, clean with eco-friendly products, and I changed our bulbs about a year ago. We have also plugged all our tv's and computers into surge plugs that we turn off when we aren't using them. My latest attempt at being green is that I have switched all my bills to email and stopped all the magazine/catalog mail. This saves tons of paper each year.

My goal is to reduce my carbon footprint by driving less- Flyboy rides his bike to work quite a bit already. However, the trick is to recognize the whole footprint because some eco products are manufactured in a way that isn't green at all. I'm trying to see how things are made before I buy-hard to do and time consuming but worth it. At least my kids will grow up this way and not have to fight bad habits like we all did.

Ooh- and when I finally have a house I want a big garden. My in laws have all the produce they can eat and chickens for eggs. it was so great to cook fresh like that and it saves money -along with the earth.

lois greiman said...

Mary F, what is Windtricity? How does it work. When I drive through ND and Iowa I see hundreds of turbines towering over the plains. Gotta say, it gives me hope.

lois greiman said...

Ellen Too, that's so heartbreaking to see animals suffering because of our foolishness. There are pics online of dead birds that are decomposing so you can see what they ate. Some have literally hundreds of plastic things in their stomachs. I was going to post it, but thought it wasn't really in the holiday spirit. :)

Helen Brenna said...

Great ideas, Lois. Thanks for sharing. I do "okay" with all this. Can definitely do much better.

Love the banana wrinkle fighter. Had no clue.

Next week on Monday - Ann Garrity is coming to visit with us to talk about all natural body and face products. It's hard to believe what's in all our lotions and makeup.

lois greiman said...

Hauf, you know I love you. And thanks for taking my styrofoam. :)

Virginia said...

We have one grocery store here in town that you have to bring your own bags to. They do not put them in bags for you. We always recycle our dring cans. We have a can crusher and crush them after we drink them. Then we take them to the recycling center

Kathleen Eagle said...

I think it's important to teach our kids the difference between natural and man-made. I always have an aloe plant growing in the kitchen ready to treat bites, stings, scrapes. Hearing my son tell his wahhn-ing daughter as he nipped off a leaf, "This is the best treatment. It's REAL medicine," is the ultimate reward.

When did we come to believe that good stuff, REAL stuff comes in tubes, blister packs, boxes and cans?

Love this topic, Lois. I need to be more aware, more diligent, but more all the time I see how important our example is.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Okay, waxing philosophical here. I'm a daughter of "The greatest Generation," and the older I get, the more I appreciate their enormous contributions. (Yeah, time and our own mistakes change the tune, dear children. Someday, you too will be less smart, more wise.)

But Mama's generation saw bottle feeding the baby as a status symbol. Natural meant primitive, or inconvenient at the very least. Boomers rebelled, and along came Earth Day, the Endangered Species Act, and shopping at the Army-Navy and Salvation Army stores (much to Mama's horror--my sister was big on old clothes).

We thought the world might end with one finger pushing the nuclear button, but we're beginning to realize that billions of fingers are responsible for the cumulative damage--billions of nails in Earth's coffin. Somehow we must strike a balance between industrialism/consumerism/techno-ism and being human, creatures of nature.

Cindy Gerard said...

Thanks for raising my awareness even more Lois. I started recycling long ago but I can definitely be even more proactive. LOVE all the suggestions.

lois greiman said...

Thanks Kathy, I couldn't agree more.

This Christmas, I've reinstituted the 'gifts must be second hand or home made' rule. I know this wouldn't work in lots of families, but mine is so cheap they were thrilled to hear it. And I've gotten some truly fun stuff. All recycled, except for the little cross necklaces I'm making out of horse shoe nails...oh, and the bags, although some of those will be made out of recycled fabric. I'm not a seamstress by any stretch so this should be interested.

Dara Edmondson said...

Love this post. I make my own cleaning products and reuse spray bottles:
glass, floor and counter cleaner - vinegar, rubbing alcohol & water, cleaner - borax and baking soda. Amonia and water also cleans many things. Get creative.

lois greiman said...

Dara, fantastic! Yay for you on the reusable bottles and homemade cleaner. You're my hero. I'm not sure about the toxicity levels of alcohol and ammonia? Can you tell us? But borax is pretty clean, isn't it?

lois greiman said...

My mother breastfed all of us, and since they raised us in ND where they were short of everything, including water, they were extremely conscientious of their consumption. I'm trying to be more like Mom, who used to save her butter wrappers for her baked potatoes, her coffee grounds for her plants, and her bath water for flushing toilets.

At the risk of being toooo gross, I'll cite the European toilet moto:
If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down. :)

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, it's good to be reminded of all of this. And I'm thrilled to get to try your recipes!

Some time ago I blogged on the British TV show about the two cleaning experts who go into dumps and transform environments and with them, lives. They consistently use three things in their cleaning: vinegar, baking soda, and lemons. I have started to use vinegar more as a cleaner, but I have to say, fresh lemons are darned pricey for cleaning materials. Still, they smell wonderful and give everything a clean air, so it's probably worth it.

And I've had shopping bags made of recucled plastic forever. . . but usually forget to ttake them to the store. I'm fired up now. . . ready to be more environmentally responsible. Thanks, Lois. I'm going to put them in the car right now!

Anonymous said...

one handy little trick I came up with, instead of taking those ridiculous plastic forks and spoons at fast food places and even some sit-down restaurants, I made a little case for a spoon and a fork which fits neatly into my purse. Once their dirty I just throw them in the washer when I get home, or in a cinch, I can wash them in a public bathroom.

Another plastic saver is abolishing straws!

lois greiman said...

Yay Anonymous!! You're the only other person I've spoken to who carries her own silverware. My wee environmentally warriorist daughter made me a little case for my fork and spoon, which I now take everywhere. And yup, I've been known to wash them in the public bathroom too.

Man!! I love you guys for caring.

lois greiman said...

Does anyone know of a good homemade solution for washing clothes? A friend of mine uses some kind of plastic disc in lieu of detergent and as she said, "I don't stink, do I?" I'm going to toss the link up here if anyone wants to check them out. Products.htm

Estella said...

My family is going giftless this year.
Our local supermarked sells cloth bags to use for carrying groceries.

lois greiman said...

Estella, you're not alone. I have a friend who is going giftless and her boys are still young, which I think makes it harder.

The problem, as I see it, is that most stores now offer bags for sale, but I hardly EVER see people use them. I was standing in Target today watching all the plastic bags go out the door and wondering how many would end up in some poor bird's digestive system.

uncidoris said...

I hope everyone using the CFL lightbulbs are aware of the proper disposal. There is still a lot of controvery over the mercury in the bulbs. One should also be aware of what/how to clean up should a bulb break.

lois greiman said...

I'm not sure how to dispose of them. Haven't needed to do so yet. Can anyone shed light on this?

MaryF said...

Windtricity is harnessed with the big windmills in West Texas, and channeled to my city, which still has a coal burning plant, but is trying to transition over. We pay a higher fee, about $20 a month, to help allay the cost. So we can't say our energy comes from the windmills, but some of it does, and hopefully soon all of it will.

lois greiman said...

MaryF, I called our electric company and asked if we had a green option, but we still don't. They thought it would still be a few years.

My husband thinks we should build our own old fashioned windmill.:)

ddurance said...

We are all going to have to make changes to protect our world. If we all did a few things different, it would make a big impact and ensure a greener tomorrow.


Jeanette J said...

I have already started by using cloth bags for purchases. I reuse gift bags, I have the LED lights. My sister cuts plastic bags into strips and crochets them into very sturdy reuseable bags.

Dara Edmondson said...

Lois - I'm so honored to be your hero:-) I use very small amounts of alcohol and amonia - like a tablespoon to a quart of water. I know amonia isn't great to breathe in, but you can always use vinegar instead.

flchen1 said...

Very cute, Lois! We've been using cloth bags more and more--they're so much sturdier than plastic/paper, and I love the cute designs on some of them! We're trying to avoid buying the teeny packages of stuff and reusing larger packages to refill smaller containers as we go.

lois greiman said...

Jeanette, my daughter does some knitting of plastic bags too. Very clever.

I saw a program about a guy in Africa who melts the plastic he finds...and I think he does it with solar power...then makes it into sandals for the people there. Genius.

catslady said...

My parents and grandparents lived through the depression and I was taught very early on to never waste anything. I drive my husband crazy sometimes because of it but my two daughters learned to be very conscious of taking care of our planet. I even rewash plastic food bags. All paper gets used as scrap paper and then recycled. Oh and lots of our Christmas presents are wrapped in the comics or homemade paper. I will buy the gift bags but they can be used many times over.

lois greiman said...

Gifts wrapped in comics. Great idea.

robynl said...

I am using a cleaner Bio Green that my sister got me hooked on; also vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
Just today when shopping at a grocery store I told the clerk 'no' I don't need any bags because I had my nylon bag in my purse and it has handles so is handy and I don't throw it away adding to the landfill.
You are crafty and a handy person to sew those bags. Good for you.

Cait London said...

So, bag ladies, huh? :)
I use bags all the time and the heavy duty conference bags are the best. I also made a lot of Christmas gifts with a used sewing machine, just purchased as my old Singer died, little Disney pillowcases for travel pillows, plus some Pingu appliques, etc. Also, I made jam and apple butter for my family, tons of it, including my mother's plum/pineapple/nut jam. I'm baking hot rolls now to give with jam. See at my blog

lois greiman said...

Robynl, fantastic. Makes me just about weep when I see all those plastic bags leaving the stores. Thanks for caring.

Cait, hi. I love those conference bags, too. Where'd we get the big red and black one. That holds a ton. Bring some of your jam to the next conf will you?? :)

Anonymous said...

I try to always use resuable bags, but sometimes my bags are not where I am when I shop! Debbie

ChristaCarol said...

totally going to have to try that facial scrub recipe! Thanks for the tips!

FIONA said...

Estella, I admire your family for going giftless this year.

We have limited it to one gift each for my DH, our kids and me. We are taking a family trip as our "gift" instead of getting lots of stuff.

I think it will set a good precedent.

For our extended families we have a habit of getting family gifts. Usually in the food category. This year got them a fish platter and spices/seasonings.