A Green Christmas

December 22nd, 2010

The holiday season can break even the most diehard environmentalist. The pressure to buy gifts and the desire to preserve tradition often result in quite a bit of non-Earth-friendly excess. Here are a few ideas to make your Christmas more enjoyable, sustainable, and hopefully, stress-free!

The Tree: Every year, approximately 33 million trees are cut down and transported on gas-guzzling trucks Christmas Treeto lots to be sold, used as a hanging rod for ornaments, and then tossed after less than a month. The average household increases their waste by 25% during the holiday season, and a large portion of that waste is with wreaths and Christmas trees. If the desire for tradition remains too strong, go for it, get the tree and . . . recycle it! If there is not a yard debris collection service in your area, there are a number of non-profit organizations (such as the Boy Scouts) that recycle trees the weekend after Christmas for a small donation. The tree can also be used as mulch in your backyard garden. However, if using a wood chipper is out of your bounds, perhaps the most sustainable Christmas tree is a living one. Bought in a pot with its roots attached, the living Christmas tree can be replanted in the back yard after the holiday season. This could be a great activity for your family and a way to truly connect with Nature. A great resource on how to care for a living tree can be found at: http://forestry.about.com/od/christmastrees1/ht/living_x_tree.htm.

The Ornaments: Did you know that in 2005, 1.2 billion dollars worth of ornaments were imported from China?Ornament

And that most of these ornaments are made from plastic produced in Chinese sweatshops? I say before making the trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a bulk supply of blue, red, and gold baubles, why not return to the origin of the ornament? Some of the earliest trees from the 1800’s were decorated with strands of popcorn and dried apples. I have a great recipe for salt dough cookie ornaments; because of the stability of these ingredients, these cookies can be reused year to year, just store them in the freezer!

Here’s the recipe:                                                 Tools needed:

-1/2 cup salt                                                           -rolling pin

-1 cup flour                                                             -baking sheet

-1/2 cup water                                                       -cookie cutters (I like stars and gingerbread men myself)

-(this yields about 20 ornaments)                     -toothpick

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Mix together the ingredients until a dough is formed. On a floured surface, knead the dough until it is no longer sticky. If this requires a bit of extra flour dusting, go for it. Add some flour to your rolling pin and begin to roll it out (great stress reliever too, phew!). Use your cookie cutter to make as many shapes as you’d like, and then with the toothpick, prick a hole in the top, and moving in a circle, make the hole to your desired liking (this will depend upon the type of ribbon, string, or whatever you are using to hang the ornament). On the ungreased baking sheet, bake your little ornaments for two hours. After allowing to cool completely, it’s time to decorate!

Powdered sugar and water make a thick paste that can be dyed with beet juice, pureed blueberries, turmeric. Or, if you want to invest in some more healthful food coloring without the additional work, check out www.naturesflavors.com.

The Gifts:

GiftAlright, alright, I recognize this can be a touchy subject for many.At times, gift giving can become more about the pressure to give, the amount to give, the irrational standards of how much to spend, until the gift itself gets lost in needless expectations. It is a gesture, merely that. Giving, and expecting nothing in return. I believe when that intention remains intact, you can give a gift of meaning. This year, try something different. Here are a few ideas:

Write a personalized letter to the people on your list. And, to take it one step further, make the canvas for your card. Paper-mache is a fun project that will likely recycle many items you may already have in your home. I’m sure you have printer paper, old newspapers or magazines, an endless supply of takeout menus and napkins. Even old egg cartons will do. Here is a link to the entire step-by-step process for making paper: http://www.pioneerthinking.com/makingpaper.html This website will aid in creating a creative, meaningful, and sustainable gift.

In all of my research looking for gifts that are eco-minded, the best by far that I have come across is the Holiday Gift Guide compiled by the creative minds at www.treehugger.com This website does an excellent job of offering a number of different gift ideas; it is also a great way to get general exposure to green companies! They have also organized the gifts by category, separated into subjects such as “Mommy-to-be”, “House and Home,” and “Sports and rec.” Very fast, very helpful.

And, last but not least, buy an eco-friendly bag!!!!! I have been carrying around my windmill design for Wind toteabout a year now; it was a gift from my mother, and I love it!! In fact, it has been upgraded from a reusable grocery bag to my everyday purse. I love the designs of these bags; they are whimsical and eccentric, and they convey a message. After loading it up with pumpkins during Halloween, stowing my endless pounds of Thanksgiving groceries, putting my school books in it to take to class, it has proven itself very durable; no signs of wear and tear, no stitches unraveling, or cotton thinning. It was the perfect gift!

I hope that some of these thoughts may have aided you in creating a Green Christmas. Happy Holidays everyone!

Shingle House

September 18th, 2010

When my partner and I came across this small competition Greensburg GreenTown, about a month ago, their idea to incorporate sustainable principles into their rebuilding process and serve as an educational resource for the community was extremely appealing to us.

Greensburg is a small community in Kansas wiped out by a hurricane that needs to rebuild itself. The twist is that it’s aiming to do so with a new, almost futuristic concept. Earlier this year, a contest was launched to find the best design for a small home to help repopulate the local housing stock.

Another element we found stimulating was the budget. The home is to be small and its budget is tight: $150,000 for a single-family home. Lastly, the possibility for the winner to actually have their house built is irresistible. So, why not?

shingle-house

We found the local, rural architecture highly inspiring. The traditional rectangular layout and porch, crossbred with 21st century “green” elements, was our starting point. We searched for simple and cheap materials, something to use with new charm.

Traditional, traditional, traditional brought shingles into the game, too, as a typically American material. This time, however, there was a “green” twist: these are hurricane-resistant Eco-shake shingles made of recyclable material. That combined with solar shingles on the roof made to blend in with our main material made for a very eco-friendly choice. A bit of garden on the roof and a steel canopy with a terrace as one element formed our house. Simple as that; stay on budget!

Elements: sustainable landscape, green roof, solar shingles, recyclable facade, AMVIC wall system (concrete ready-made system), compact fluorescent lights, reclaimed wood, low-flow bathroom and kitchen fixtures, Energy Star appliances and low VOC paints make this house sustainable and environmentally conscious. So much so that, as designed and budgeted, it satisfies the requirements for a Silver LEED certificate.

The house is only 1,400 square feet and is built to grow. It is possible to add a second floor under the roof, for total additional floor space up to 300 sq. ft. This small floor can function as an office, media room, or a bedroom. The living room has a high ceiling and is fully open to the yard, creating a large space encompassing the porch and the outside.

Would you like to see it built? Do you like it? If yes, please vote for us: www.freegreen.com/greensburg/plan-general.aspx?id=86

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Eco Gift Festival

September 22nd, 2009

One-stop shopping for all things green.

Be sure not to miss the “Eco Gift Festival,” from December 12-14, at the Santa
Monica Civic Center, where among other activities, shoppers can check out and
purchase the current & newly created i’m eco friendly™ bag designs.

Sponsored by The Los Angeles Times & CBS Radio, Eco Gift Festival is the perfect
place for individuals and families to do all their holiday shopping and what’s more,
feel good about it! Organized in a festival environment, guests can enjoy music,
organic food, speeches by the leaders in the Green Movement and so much more!

Eco Gift Festival’s mission is to produce annually, a large-scale eco-conscious gift
show that provides people with an uplifting experience and a solution to the difficult
emotions, inconveniences and terrible waste associated with the holidays and
holiday shopping. Eco Gift is on the cutting edge of the live event sustainability
movement. At every level of business, it strives to promote the ideals of
environmental sustainability and social consciousness. Moreover, Eco Gift works and
partners with companies who already support or who are demonstrating a shift
toward these same ideals.

Ticket Info

Tickets are $10 per day and $20 for a weekend pass. Children under 12 and Seniors

over 65 get in for free.

Location

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

1855 Main Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Dates and Show Hours

Friday, December 12th / 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Saturday, December 13th / 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Sunday, December 14th / 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Parking

Parking is $8.00 at the venue.

Overflow parking is available at the corner of Colorado and Main Street.

For more information, on how to attend, please visit ecogift.com/attend

PLEASE CARPOOL WHEREVER POSSIBLE!

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