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Eco-Friendly Holiday Ideas

Make this December a "green" one!

Did you know the December holidays add 25 million tons of garbage to our landfills? Here are some suggestions to have a Green December this year--and don't forget--you can wrap gifts in reusable cloth bags, re-use wrapping paper, or simply wrap your gift in newspaper or grocery bags. Or simply give an unwrapped present. Most wrapping paper can't be recycled and won't biodegrade, so you're directly helping to reduce the solid waste problem by using alternatives.


I like to give unusual gifts. Okay, I'll give a toaster to someone who needs one and a box of homemade cookies to someone I don't know well. But it's more fun to come up with creative gift ideas for "friends who have everything." Also "unboxed" gifts keep me out of crowded stores and save transportation time.

The present should be a surprise and something the recipient wouldn't buy for himself. Here are a few suggestions:

Gifts You Make or Assemble:

- Fill a portable ice chest with "from scratch" frozen dinners, e.g., macaroni and cheese (your best recipe) Cornish game hen, homemade soup (maybe not the one that took six hours to make!), a pint of your best spaghetti sauce, the recipient's favorite bread and/or homemade pie. Remember, since the recipient might not be an experienced cook, include instructions on how to defrost and prepare each delicious gift.

- Collect a roll of postage stamps, note cards (you find great ones at yard sales), postcards and a non-disposable pen with a few refill ink cartridges and fit them into a gift box you've been saving from last year. If none is available, place them into a brown packing box from a grocery story and tie it with a piece of twine.

- Create gift baskets for people who are passionate about particular foods. You can find interesting old baskets at yard sales and flea markets. Collect a few and fill them with several jars of exotic mustards, green tea, instant soup mixes or gourmet chocolate bars. If you can't find unusual products in your local stores, hunt for some on the Internet.

Bought Gifts:

- Tuition to an unusual class. Once I invited two friends to share a two-hour private cooking lesson at my home with a sushi teacher. We are still talking about it.

- Subscription to a magazine on a topic of interest but not related to the person's vocation or favorite hobby. For example, get a subscription to a cat magazine for a friend intending to adopt a stray cat, or a sailing magazine for someone dreaming of sailing into the sunset when he retires.

- Membership to a museum or special interest group (e.g., a local historical society, an environmental group, a group of jazz aficionados).

- Book of movie tickets or a subscription to the theater or symphony orchestra. If you're good friends, buy them the seats next to yours.

- Parking for a month or (more ecologically) fare cards for bus or subway.

- Gift certificate. Dinner for two at an unusual restaurant, pottery from a local potter's studio, a balloon ride, a massage, maid service for a day, a weekend alone at your country cottage, a bag of food from a gourmet grocery or pet store. Merchants will make up a gift certificate for you if they don't normally provide them.

- A string of lottery tickets.

The Gift of Your Time

Give certificates redeemable for doing the dishes, raking leaves, baby sitting, washing the car, dog walking, cat sitting, teaching the computer, making hors d'oeuvres for a party. A grateful friend once gave Thanksgiving dessert to each of eighteen friends who supported her during a personal medical crisis. The list is limited only by your imagination.

Reena Kazmann offers hundreds of beautiful and innovative gifts made from recycled, reused and natural materials at her web-based gallery, All price ranges, starting at $2.50.

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