Archive for the ‘Buying Green’ Category

Husband’s work had a gift exchange this year, but it was something a little different. They had a Yankee Swap, but instead of buying a gift, everyone was supposed to bring a handmade, homemade gift they made themselves.

In addition to being less commercial and (likely) more eco-friendly, it was a great way to showcase everyone’s talent (or lack of talent, as some of the gag gifts suggested). And it was just plain cool.

Gifts ranged from knitted scarves, bookmarks, screen-printed pillowcases, framed photographs, baked goods, mini clay sculptures, mix CDs, and so much more. What a cool idea, and so completely obvious. It seems like just one more thing to have to do in an already busy time, but I had so much fun making my gift, and I imagine others did too. What a great way to bring some meaning back into gift giving. I usually try to make most of my gifts anyway, but it was fun to know that everyone had made theirs too. Usually, I’m the rogue crazy environmentalist offering homemade lip balm and vanilla extract, wrapped up in a reusable bag made from an old umbrella, and it felt good to not be the odd one out for a change.

So what did I make? I wasn’t sure where to start, but I wanted to definitely make something fun and whimsical. Then husband asked, “what’s a Yankee Swap without a Yankee to swap?” And it was all over from there. I had to make a Yankee. Uncle Sam was my inspiration (whom I have now decided bears the surname Yankee).

And here he is, himself. Uncle Sam Yankee.


Did anyone else give or receive cool handmade gifts this year?


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Firstly, I know that posting twice in one day is overkill. But I have to tell you about my day!

I finally broke down and did it. I gave in. I surrendered. I BOUGHT SOMETHING to give as a gift. I know it’s not really that big of a deal, that I bought ONE thing, but for me, it was the idea of making handmade gifts for everyone and not giving in on the commercialism, and buying something means I’m cheating. But today, I made an exception. Just a tiny one. See, my nephews LOVE trucks. And trains. And planes. And cars. And generally any type of toy mode of transportation. Well today, I came across a toy recycling truck. I’ve never seen a toy recycling truck before, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I’m sure they don’t have a recycling truck. There’s also little slots so you can sort all of your toy recyclables: cans, paper, and plastic. And to top it off, it’s made out of 100% recycled #2 milk jugs, free of BPAs, packaged in recycled cardboard, and printed with soy ink. Totally earth-friendly through and through. And, the place I got it from was having a major moving sale, so it was super discounted. I couldn’t resist.

But now this means I’ve got two gifts for 3 kids (they’re also getting the Chaos game), so now I’ve got to figure something else out. My little niece will be getting one of those towel cats, I think…..

On to the Goodwill. I know you’re thinking it: “Who shops for Christmas gifts at the goodwill?!?” I wasn’t shopping for gifts. Just browsing. This is one of my all-time favorite places to browse. Among other things, I got a couple of old tattered hard-cover books, because I want to experiment with making a hollow book to use as a pencil case for my drawing pencils. And you won’t believe one of the books I picked up. It was titled “Better than Life.” What’s better than life? Making art, of course! 🙂 I have no idea what the book’s about….the paper jacket was missing, but I think it’s the perfect book title to hold all my artsy drawing stuff. I’m sort of intrigued to read it before cutting it up, but I’m also really chomping at the bit to get started with this project, and I don’t want to end up liking the book, because then I won’t want to cut it up. I also picked up an old dictionary too (for a prototype), just so I can get all the mistakes out the first time around. Expect an additional posting about this, and pictures too. Better than life, I’m still laughing about that one. Maybe I will read it….

EDIT: The book was really completely lame. It was all motivational-speaker-ish and preachy about why reading books is important. You’re preaching to the choir, Mr. author. Anyone who’s dedicated enough to pick up your book doesn’t need to be told that reading is important. I definitely don’t feel so bad cutting it up.

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Is what you're buying REALLY green?

I’m finding myself increasingly frustrated with all the green marketing going on to tap into this new mindset/trend of environmentally conscious consumerism. Phrases on packaging like “inspired by nature,” “made from natural ingredients,” or items with terribly toxic chemicals in them that just make a point to put a picture of a leaf on the label to make you think you’re buying something that’s better for the environment just make me want to puke. It’s completely misleading, and it really just ticks me off. “Inspired by nature”?!? Really? Isn’t everything inspired by our natural environment or “made from nature”? Even the most toxic chemicals in harsh cleaning agents were “made from natural ingredients” at some point. They all came from our planet somehow. They were just remade and recombined into something else that is now, considerably more unhealthy. That does NOT warrant a misleading label. These types of things make it even more difficult to be conscious of buying the best, most environmentally friendly products out there, and I find it sometimes takes some careful scrutiny to determine if the product I’m looking at is in fact as environmentally healthy as the label purports. It’s super important to read labels carefully to make sure you’re buying as responsibly as you think you are.

What’s also frustrating is the growing market of “green products” that, while free of chemicals and other toxics, come in tiny plastic containers with unnecessary packaging. These are often products that can be made at home in bulk while reusing the same containers over and over. This cuts down on plastic use, shipping costs, and saves you money too. The true idea of going green is getting OUT the consumerism rut. We can’t buy ourselves out of this mess–we need to start using and buying less, not just buying the same stuff in the same quantities from elsewhere.

In light of this, one of my own personal ongoing challenges has been to carefully consider all the products I use and see if there are better options other than just continuing my same buying habits. Do I absolutely NEED this? Can I use less of it? Can I make it at home?

Many times, I find I can make something at home with less environmental impact, less chemical toxins, and at least as good of quality as the commercial product I used to buy. I’ll be sharing various recipes I find, test, tweak, test, and tweak some more, and to get the ball rolling, here’s one of my tried-and-true cleaning products. For me, it’s my all-purpose-cleans-and-disinfects-everything mix.

In your old cleaner bottle, combine:

  • 1Tbsp. baking soda
  • ¼ Cup lemon juice
  • ½ Cup white vinegar
  • 25 drops tea tree essential oil
  • Fill the rest of the bottle with water

Notes: Make sure to thoroughly clean your old spray bottle before refilling with anything else. Put the baking soda in first, then lemon juice and wait for the fizzing to mostly stop before adding the rest of the ingredients. The tea tree oil is what makes this spray disinfecting; it’s naturally antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.

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