Monday, November 10, 2008

Green Gifts for Less: Christmas or Yule from the (Green) Heart for Kids and Adults

This Christmas, make a statement about your love of the earth and your love for friends and family without spending much money. This article includes many ideas for beginner and advanced crafters, plus a few more eco-friendly gifts that do not require any “making” on your part.

First, you probably have more cards to send than gifts to buy. You can save green - cash and the planet – by either writing a blog as your card and emailing a link to everyone on your list, or make your own cards. Here are ideas for both.

Holiday Cards

•Write a blog: Check out to set up a family blog. If you have basic computer skills (you’re reading this, aren’t you?), you can set up a blog. You can upload photos and videos and write out your annual letter all in the same blog. It costs nothing (unless you scan pictures at a copy center), and once you set it up, you have it there forever. You can update on other holidays, or just reserve for Yule.

•Make your own: Use last year’s cards cut up, craft paper, pressed flowers and leaves, stencils, stamps, stickers, paint, glitter… you name it! Buy recycled cardstock, fold in half, and cut down the middle to make two small cards (or cut the whole sheet in fourths for less bulk – decorate one side and write on the other). This is a great family activity for a snowy day or even on Thanksgiving afternoon. Take turns addressing envelopes or use your computer to print out labels. Even easier, but possibly more expensive, you can make one card and take it to a copy center to duplicate as many times as you need.

Now on to home-made gifts. Here are some ideas for earth-friendly gifts you can make, organized by age group.

For Infants

•Organic cotton chew toys like simple dolls – Purchase organic cotton (may have to order online) in bright primary colors. Wash once. Then fold in half, and cut out simple shapes of fruits, veggies, animals, or people. Stitch around the edges by hand or with a machine, leaving a small opening. Stuff tightly with organic batting. Stitch up the hole.

•Knitted toy fruits and veggies – if you know how to knit, try making fruits and veggies! These knitted veggies are really cool.

•Bum salve – Good for a baby or new parent, bum salve is really easy to make. Pour four tablespoons of organic olive oil into a double boiler (a bowl over a pot of water is fine) over medium low heat. Add a tablespoon each of dried calendula leaves and lavender leaves. A tablespoon of comfrey leaf is nice, too. Let sit on low-ish heat for twenty minutes. Strain the oil and put it back on the double boiler. Grate a tablespoon and a half to two tablespoons of beeswax into the oil and stir till the wax is melted. Remove from heat. Let cool, stirring occasionally for even consistency. Put into a sterilized (with boiling water) little jar.

Here are ideas for gifts for kids.

•Knitted scarves, mittens, or even sweaters – If you already knit, this a an easy choice. Try some new wools, add in sparkly wools for kids, and go for their favorite colors. If you can’t knit, check out a local class for beginners. Knitting has become very big lately, and is a great way to work with your hands.

•Fleece (buy recycled at scarves, blankets – If you don’t knit and don’t want to, fleece blankets are easy to make. Cut a rectangle of desired size – small for babies, larger for kids. Hem the edges, or just leave plain. Or, cut one-inch wide fringe all around the edge, or on two opposite ends. Leave it just like this, or for an even fancier blanket, choose two complementary fabrics and tie the fringe together. See here for more instructions and pictures.

Kids love to make things themselves. What about assembling them a kit for something they can make, like

•Kits for musical instruments out of recycled materials: Shakers can be made out of paper m√Ęche and used light bulbs or out of clean empty containers filled with beans, for instance. For some really great ideas, check out bashthetrash.

•Kits for fleece blanket – you cut, they assemble (see above link for instructions).

•Garden kit – a little ceramic or peat pot, a little bag of soil, and seeds. Write a little poem about planting seeds and include it.

If you’re looking for a nice gift a child can make, what about:

•Salt dough ornaments or figurines – Mix one cup salt with two cups white flour. Slowly knead in one cup water. Leave plain or color with a few drops of tempera paint. Cut with cookie cutters and make a whole in the top with a toothpick to make an ornament, or mold into figurines. Cook at 250 degrees for 2 hours. Let cool, and protect with gel medium if desired. What about a chess set, chunky beads, favorite characters, or little charms?

•Knitted scarves – Kids can learn to knit at about age five or six. Take a class together or learn from an elder!

•Paint a t-shirt – Wrap a plain t-shirt around a 8-10 piece of cardboard and tape on the back so that the area you want painted is showing. Give your kids fabric paints to decorate. I did this with my two-year old last year with an old white t-shirt for Dad.

•Glittery eggs – Poke holes in the ends of an egg and blow out the insides. Rinse clean with hot water. Glue glitter and gems to the egg, and attach a gold wire to hang on a tree.

Alright, now onto home-made gifts for the adults in your life.

•Knit a sweater or sew a robe or other clothing

•Homemade natural cleaners – Mix a tablespoon of white vinegar and a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol into a 1.5 pint mixing bottle of water. Add five to ten drops of a favorite essential oil, like pine, lavender, thyme or orange.

•Homemade tea blends – The possibilities are endless. For a nice soothing tea, blend equal parts dried lemon balm and chamomile with a pinch of valerian.

•Bath bombs, salt scrubs, salves, or bath salts – see

•Garden kits – A pretty pot, soil, and collection of seeds. Herbs are good, as are annual flowers. They are usually pretty cheap this time of year, too!

•Handmade Christmas ornaments: quilled paper, decorated pine cones, dried orange slices, painted nuts; there are a ton of ideas here.

•Sachets – sew up a little baggie out of pretty fabric scraps, fill with a blend of dried lavender, rose petals, cloves, or patchouli

So – what if you don’t have time or aren’t feeling crafty or there is a person on your list who is just not into crafted items? Don’t despair! You can still send an eco-friendly gift by giving:

•Money donated to Heifer International or another charity:
These gifts are in all denominations of money, and help a person, family, or community in need. You purchase an animal or share of an animal or care (like midwifery care or a well) in a loved one’s name, and they get a card thanking them for their help.

•Money into a college savings fund – Have any kids on your list? Ask their parents if they have a college fund like a 529 and offer to put money into it.

•Gift certificate for massage or spa day – This supports small business and healers while offering the gift of joy and relaxation.

And of course an eco-friendly book is always a great idea, like Sacred Land or Voices of the Earth! For more on these titles, check out my website,

I hope you found some ideas here! Please feel free to post some of your own. This is just a beginning of suggested eco-friendly gifts to make or give. What if we all stopped gifting plastic toys and unwanted chachkas! We could change the world!

Happy happy holidays!

Wreath image from

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