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Taking Care of Those Forgotten Chores for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and if you happen to be planning on entertaining guests this season it’s time to start getting your home into tip top shape, which means tackling some chores that you may often forget about or just choose to put off. The good people at Enviro Maids, have compiled some tips on how to take care of some of the more common, “dreaded chores”. Tasks such as, cleaning out and disinfecting your trashcan, taking care of soap scum, and cleaning stainless steel appliances are a few of these forgotten and/or dreaded chores which are discussed. So, check out this article and get your home as clean as possible for this years holiday parties.


Easy Ways to Tackle those Dreaded Chores

Kitchen trash can

Your kitchen trash can is one of the most germ-filled surfaces in your home. WebMD reports that the average trash bin has 411 bacteria per square inch! Traces of food and liquid can sometimes leak through plastic bags, leaving you with a stinky, icky mess. Give your trash can a good cleaning once or twice a month to prevent mold, mildew, and a petri dish of bacteria from covering its surfaces. Spray the inside and out with a cleaning solution and scrub; rinse and let completely dry before lining with a plastic bag.

Soap scum

Unsightly and stubborn to get rid of, soap scum is notorious for being one of the most dreaded cleaning tasks. Soap scum is a combination of mineral deposits, soap residue, body oils, and dirt. shares a couple of ways to get rid of the cloudy, stuck-on mess:

  • Mix ½ cup of boiling water (be careful!), 1 ½ cups of white vinegar, and a squirt of dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the surfaces of your shower and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Scrub with a nylon cleaning brush and rinse.
  • Wet the surface to be cleaned with hot water and sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto a damp sponge. Scrub the trouble spots using a circular motion; rinse and repeat as necessary. For stubborn areas, try adding a bit of white vinegar to the baking soda.

Window blinds

Over time, dust and grime can accumulate and stick to your window blinds. What makes this task so tedious is trying to clean each of the slats. To remove dust, simply slip an old sock onto your hand and using your thumb and fingers, run your hands over the slats. For stuck-on grime, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water and follow the steps above.


Need to brighten up your crystal chandelier and remove the cobwebs? It’s not as bad as it seems. The pros at suggest first covering the table or surface directly below your chandelier with a drop cloth. Next you’ll need your favorite glass cleaner and two cotton gloves or two old white socks. Spray the glass cleaner directly onto one of the gloves and wipe each area; use the other glove to dry and remove any remaining residue.

Stainless steel appliances

With so many different hands going in and out of the refrigerator throughout the day, chances are your stainless steel refrigerator is constantly covered by fingerprints and streaks. has an easy fix:

  • Prepare a solution of 1 teaspoon dish detergent and 1 quart hot water
  • Using a microfiber cloth, rub the detergent solution onto the marks in small sections, going with the grain of the stainless steel.
  • Rinse with clean hot water, and dry immediately.

Buffing with mineral oil is also a great way to remove streaks

De-crumbing the toaster

If there’s a burning smell coming from your toaster each morning and the bread you’re toasting isn’t the culprit, chances are it’s the leftover crumbs lingering at the bottom that’s the problem. Cleaning your toaster is one of those chores many simply forget about. To clean your toaster oven, suggests:
Placing a small oven-safe dish filled with water inside the oven and heating the dish at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. The moisture will help to soften stuck on gunk. Unplug the oven and remove the crumb tray and the rack; dump out the crumbs. Use a plastic spatula to gently get rid of stuck-on bits. Wipe the inside with a damp cloth; wash the tray and rack and dry. Done!

DIY, Natural Christmas Ornaments

Christmas time is just around the corner, which means many people are picking out their tree to bring home to be decorated. Decorating the tree has always been one of my favorite parts of the Christmas holiday. It is often a family affair, with everyone pitching in to help make the tree look as bright and festive as possible; with lights, tinsel, and of course, ornaments. Unfortunately, over the years, many ornaments are either broken or lost. However, before you run to the store to buy new ornaments to replace those lost or broken, check out these tips on how make natural, DIY ornaments, from Good Housekeeping


All-Natural Christmas Decor

Bring the beauty of nature to your Christmas tree with these all-natural ornaments and decorations.

Red Burlap Garland

all natural christmas treeMake a unique garland by using red burlap to adorn your tree. Take 2 yards of your material (find it at fabric or crafts stores) and cut into 3-inch-long strips, making sure you cut with the grain. Pull threads on each side of the strips to fringe the edges about 1/4 of an inch on each side. To make the garland ruffled, pull one thread from the center of one end and pull to gather the garland slightly. When finished, wrap around your tree however you like before hanging with ornaments.

Golden Walnut Ornament

homemade walnut ornamentSpruce up your holiday walnuts by making them look like treasure on your tree. Spread walnuts onto newspaper or another surface you don’t mind getting messy. Using gold spray paint, spray walnuts, turning so they are fully covered. Allow time to dry. Using an ornament hanger with one end straightened out, push the straight end into the little hole on top of each nut. The wire should stay by itself, but you can add a dab of glue to make the hanger more secure.

Cranberry Mini Wreaths

mini cranberry holiday wreathWhat goes around comes around with these tiny cranberry “wreaths” for your tree. Take about 20 to 25 cranberries (depending on the size of hoop you want to make), and thread onto floral wire. Tie the floral wire in a circle, and hang among the other bows and baubles on your tree.

Get Organized this Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the holiday season is just about here. The holidays can be an extremely joyous time, filled with laughter and spent with loved ones. However, along with all of the fun, laughter, and family, this time of year can also be incredibly stressful. Organization, is one way you can help yourself cut-down on the stress this year. This article, from the good people at Enviro Maids, has several tips that will help you get organized, to take away some of the stress that comes along with the holidays.


Stress less this holiday season with our organizing tips

Organized gift-giving

Gift-giving can be overwhelming especially if you have lots of people to buy for and don’t seem to have enough time to get all your shopping done. Not to mention trying to figure out what to buy the person who has everything. Help make gift-giving a pleasurable experience with these gift organizing tips.

  • If your extended family has grown over the years, gift-giving can get out of control and expensive. Consider drawing names so everyone focuses on buying for just one person, or agree to buy gifts for only the children.
  • Shop early to avoid last-minute frantic shopping or expedited shipping fees
  • Not sure what to buy your teenage nephew or picky best friend? The pros at Reducethechaos.comsuggest using the “wish list” feature. Ask friends and family to pick items from they’d like to receive and have them save the items to their “wish list.” Once their list is completed, they can share it with others via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
  • When you come up with a great gift idea throughout the year, be sure to jot it down or type it in a spreadsheet. This way, when the next holiday season rolls around, you’ll have a list of ideas ready.
  • Stock up now on tape, wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift bags so you’ll have your gift wrapping station set up.
  • Wrap gifts as soon as you purchase them or wrap a few gifts each day to avoid having to wrap heaps of gifts at the last minute.
  • Shopping online saves you the hassle of having to fight for a parking space, navigating large crowds, and standing in long lines to pay. If you do visit a brick and mortar store, shop during non-peak times: early weekday mornings or during the early evening hours.

Organizing Holiday Meals

  • Plan your holiday menu as far in advance as possible. The extra time lets you tryout recipes and stock up on non-perishable ingredients in advance.
  • Not sure what to make or want to try a different recipe? Search websites such as or Pinterest for endless inspiration.
  • Cook and freeze items ahead of time.
  • Ask family members to contribute by bringing an appetizer, dessert, or side dish
  • Not a fan of cooking? Have the meal catered

Organized Cleaning

  • Stagger your cleaning tasks. Trying to get your entire house or apartment clean in one day is overwhelming.
  • Ran out of time and guest will be arriving the next day? Don’t panic, focus on cleaning the rooms and areas of your home guests will actually be using — the bathroom, kitchen, and living room.
  • When preparing food, spray pans with non-stick spray before cooking to cut down on the scrubbing and soaking time later

Other tips:

  • Make a list of all the things you’d like to get done during the holiday, then edit the list, keeping only the tasks you can realistically accomplish.
  • You can’t do it all; delegate whenever you can.
  • Leave some space in your schedule to take a break and to relax.

Keeping the Kids Busy This Holiday Break

For the next week, or so, most children will be off from school for winter (or holiday) vacation. Keeping your kids busy and entertained can be a bit of a job during this break. Luckily, our friends at Seventh Generation, have a few ideas and activities for your kids, and even you to do while they’re home from school. Check out these 25 ways to keep busy, and enjoy your holiday time together.

25 Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained Over Holiday Break

The holiday season is here and we have a special gift for you. Here’s list of 25 ideas for things kid can do on their own, or with a parent or caregiver, that should help you survive — and even have some fun — until the holiday break is over.

1. Bake some cookies together. Keep a few batches for yourself, deliver the rest as gifts.

2. Host a holiday-themed movie party/sleepover. Have a few of your kids’ friends over for a fun afternoon (or night if you want to make it a sleepover) of watching holiday movies. Provide a few snacks or have them help you make a homemade pizza.

3. Volunteer together. This is something you can do year-round, but the holidays are usually a time when more help is needed. Soup kitchens and food banks in particular are often looking for extra help during the season. If your child is under the age of 16, you may either need to grant permission or be present. Check to see if your local mall needs gift wrappers. Many malls offer gift wrapping services, often provided by volunteers, with funds raised going to local charities.

4. Create a treasure hunt. Amazing fun that will keep kids busy for hours.

5. Go outside and play.Especially in today’s technology driven world, we forget about the simplicity of encouraging outdoor play. Make sure they’re well bundled if you’re fortunate enough to live in a cold winter environment and let them enjoy the fresh air.

6. Have kids help prepare holiday meals.Most kids like to explore in the kitchen. Yes, it will take longer than if you did it yourself and yes, your kitchen will likely be much messier but the skills that you’ll be able to teach are much more important than some spilled flour.

7.Check to see if your local movie theater offers special holiday prices. Most movie theater chains will offer discounted tickets during the local school break as a way of encouraging the movie-going experience so check it out!

8. Read a chapter book out loud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.

9. Do something nice for someone. Shovel a neighbor’s walk, walk their dog, make dinner for a friend, offer to wrap gifts for someone.

10.Have your kids make everything from holiday cards or gift tags to tree ornaments. The possibilities are endless and most require very few supplies.

11. Learn something new together. Learn to juggle, play the harmonica, knit, etc., or take a class in Cooking, yoga, ice skating, music, etc.

12. Learn to use Skype. And then teach the grandparents so you can keep in touch even after the holiday’s over.

13. Build a fort. Let the kids loose in the living room with pillow and blankets. Turn the fort into an overnight sleepout spot.

14. See a live performance together. Live entertainment abounds this time of year and many venues offer special family or matinee pricing.

15. Put on your own dramatic performance. Write a script, sew costumes or just do a little improv. The rules are simple, one child is in charge and gets to direct. The others must go along with it. You will need to have a day like this for each child. The one in charge gets to direct, assign roles and costumes. You get to watch the finished project!

16. Play (or learn) card games. Amazing how much fun you can have with a single pack of playing cards. Little ones can learn crazy eights or Old Maid. Teach the older kids rummy or poker, or discover new games to master.

17. Make a time capsule. Time capsules are a fun way to record the present and remember the past. They are easy to make, and your kids will love making predictions about their lives!

18. Flashlight tag. Give everyone a flashlight and turn out the lights! If you get ‘tagged’ you’re out or you’re frozen.

19. Make Cootie Catchers. If you don’t remember how to make one, go online.

20. Plan for daily quiet time. At the library check out several story books or a novel to read together over the holiday. Try audio books too! REMEMBER: talking about books is almost as important as reading them.

21. Have everyone in the family (parents too!) write down 2 or 3 favorite activities on a small piece of paper. Put them all in a jar and pull one out when the kids get bored.

22. Make Silly Putty. This childhood favorite is a cinch to make, and it will provide hours of entertainment.

23. Go sledding. If you’re lucky enough to have snow, then look for a nearby hill for hours of entertainment. Grab your tube, toboggan, or saucer for hours of entertainment. Sledding is fun for all ages, but toddlers should ride with a parent, and should be well-bundled in layers to stay warm and cushion their tumbles.

24. Play board games. Put your family to the test with the ultimate board-game challenge. Set up a championship and spend the day competing for prizes.

25. Make ice candles. Help kids transform your backyard into a winter wonderland with this enchanting and easy outdoor activity.

Have a Green Christmas

While you may be dreaming of a white Christmas this year, you can also make it a green one. Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Unfortunately, the Christmas holiday also creates a ton of waste. Luckily, you can cut back on some of the waste this year by making minor changes to your holiday routine. In this article from Eartheasy, you are given tips on how to have a greener Christmas. Tips on everything, from your decorative lighting, to the tree you use, and even the gifts you give. Let’s see what changes you can make this Christmas to help the environment.

How to have a ‘green’ Christmas


Buy Less
Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.

• Not all gifts have to be store-bought.
You can give more while spending less by giving gifts that are personal and unique. While young children may favor the bright, shiny store-bought item, moat adults appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Here’s a page with some great ideas for meaningful holiday gifts that aren’t found on store shelves: 
Tips for sustainable giving
• Simplify the ‘gift-go-round’. 

Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that’s just too long? Here’s an idea to help shorten your list and simplify the family gift-giving ritual. We tried this in our own family last year and it was appreciated by all.

Before the holiday season begins (Thanksgiving is a good time because the extended family is often together), put the names of all adult family members on separate slips of paper and put the slips in a hat. Take turns picking one name per adult – the name you pick is your gift recipient. Keep your chosen pick a secret, to help maintain an element of surprise. 

Your gift list for the adults in your family has just been shortened to one! You can now focus on a special gift for the person whose name you picked, without the dificulty and expense of finding just the right gift for everyone.If the family’s not together on Thanksgiving, ask Grandma or someone else in the family to pick the names from the hat for everyone, by proxy. It works just as well. An agreed on spending limit will also help everyone from feeling they have to go overboard with a fabulous gift for the person whose name they chose.

Buy Smart – think ‘green’
• look for locally made gifts
Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources 
Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. Here are some examples for you to consider: 
Gifts from recycled materials
• give ‘battery-free’ gifts 
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. Here are a few examples of gifts that have less of an impact on the environment: 
Naturally-powered toys
• avoid children’s toys that promote violence 
There is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is “Peace on Earth”. There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens creativity and sense of active play. Here are some examples:
Educational toys and games
• ‘re-gifting’ is OK 
There’s much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What’s to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. 
Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful.
A great way to teach children the spirit of giving (and simplifying) during the holidays is to ask them to pick 3 toys that they don’t play with very much, and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter etc. I saw children bring toys in to the shelter I worked at year after year – it was a wonderful experience for everyone!” ……..Lauren, New Hampshire 

Connect with Nature
Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.

Annual Christmas Day Bird Count

Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends.

Compare the results from former years and you’ll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

For more information, see our page Annual Bird Count

Family nature hike
A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than the score of the football game. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.
Nature restoration activity
Planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the ‘taking’ of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

Decorate a tree for the birds
Place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. Yo attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter.

“This year our family is planning a “Merry Christmas to Nature” day. We found some “decoration recipes” in library books and plan to decorate the outdoors with edible ornaments for the birds, chipmunks, rabbits, etc..
Another thought is to visit a local animal shelter or sanctuary… ”       Jo and Amelia Guelph, ON
“Another way to make the Holidays more sustainable is to use a living tree as your Christmas tree. For many years, my family has used a potted Norfolk Pine as our Christmas tree.
While not as large or full as the traditional trees, Norfolk Pines can grow to be quite large and in my opinion, they make quite an attractive Christmas tree.
These trees are a great addition to a house year round and they simply need to be decorated come Christmas time, saving much time and effort. They also eliminate the need to cut a tree each year or to buy a fake plastic tree, saving valuable resources.
The use of our Norfolk Pine has become a Christmas tradition in our house and I would like to see more people adopt it as their tradition as well.” Jeff H. Aurora, MN
Lower the impact of holiday lighting

In the past, he house with the most decorative holiday lights used to be considered the ‘best’. Times have changed. The cost of electricity goes way beyond the utility bill. Electricity drains natural resources.

• Reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays
A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the ‘season of giving’. Saving electricity is also a way of giving, since conserving resources benefits everyone.
• Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting
LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. As an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out the rest of the strand will stay lit. 

• Outdoor Mini-lights will also save energy
A 100-light string uses only 40 watts. If you’re buying a new set of lights, compare based on equal ‘lighted lengths’. Some higher priced brands have 100 mini-lights for only 8 1/2 feet of length, while some 100 mini-light strings cover up to 40 feet in length. For the most efficient outdoor holiday lighting, consider the new solar LED strings now available.
• Turn tree lights and outdoor house decorative lighting at bedtime
It’s simply a waste of energy to leave the holiday lights on at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.

Remember, never install lights with the power on. Test lights first, then unplug to install.
Choose a live tree
Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. While artificial trees theoretically last forever, research shows that they are typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. Discarded artificial trees are then sent to landfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and almost ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold, saving both transportation costs and added air pollution. Live trees also smell like Christmas! When buying a live tree, consider:

• live potted trees can be used for years
If you buy a small tree in a large pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for 2- 3 years without having to plant or re-pot the tree.
• re-pot the tree for longer use
If your tree becomes root-bound, you can replant it in a larger pot for several years’ extended use.

• replant the tree when it becomes too large for your holidat tree
If you have the space, of course, replanting the tree outdoors is an option. Be sure to anticipate the full-grown size of the tree, and avoid planting near foundations or underground services.
• chip and mulch the tree
Many communities now have free chipping servicse for trees.
 This is useful since the chips are used as mulch for municipal landscaping or sold at low cost to gardeners. This chipped material makes an excellent mulch for your shrub beds and garden pathways.

Homemade Cards
Store-bought Christmas cards are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for a throw-away item. The amount of cards sold in the US during the holiday season would fill a football field 10 stories high, and requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees. Homemade cards may not be as professional, but they are more personal and just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family during the weeks before Christmas.

Last years’ calendar is a good place to start when making homemade cards, since the images are large, colorful and printed on heavy paper similar in weight to card stock. Cut out sections of pictures and ‘glue-stick’ them to a folded-over piece of paper. Size the paper to fit your envelopes, or have the card and message on one side and fold over to put the address on the other side. Staple at the bottom and no envelope is needed.

Childrens’ art work is another good source for Christmas card pictures. Even the ‘scribblings’ of the wee-ones are interesting, fun and especially appropriate for the season. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles will probably appreciate a ‘child-s art’ card even more than a stor-bought card. Simply cut out sections of the artwork which look best, and glue-stick it to a card of the required size.

Making your own cards is easy if you have the material to work with. Try to get in the habit of saving pieces of heavy paper (good one side) to use as the backing for your glued-on pictures. “Card stock” is the ideal weight, and even small pieces are worth saving.

Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. 
(Source: The Recycler’s Handbook, 1990)

In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons. In Canada, the annual waste from gift wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,00 tons. If everyone wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or fabric gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks.

• Use environmentally friendly wrapping paper
Choose wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp or paper using recycled content

• Avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper 
You can do a beautifully wrapping job for your gifts without having to use metallic wrapping paper. This kind of ‘paper’ is difficult to recycle and it has no value for use as mulch since there are heavy metals used in the foil paper. Foil gift wrap is also harder to reuse, since it wrinkles and creases easily when the gift is being unwrapped.
• Reuse gift wrap where possible 
Large wrapped presents usually have large enough uncreased sections to be reused for wrapping smaller gifts. If you open large gift packages with care, the paper can be set aside for re-use for other gift-giving occasions. Fancy ribbons and bows, of course, can be stored in a box till next year when you’ll appreciate having them around and not having to buyr new ones.

• Use tape sparingly, or not at all
If you’re going to use ribbon to finish off your wrapping, you may not need to use tape. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse.

• Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap 
There are many options which are cost-free, attractive solutions. Gift bags can be made using fabric scraps, or wrapping can be made using comic strips from the paper, old calendars, maps, posters and more. For more ideas, visit our page:
Gift-wrapping Alternatives 
Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. And added to this is the carbon cost in transporting all these trees to the landfill. Much of the environmental costs associated with the holidays can be reduced by simple awareness and some pre-planning.

• Reuse or recycle gift packing materials
Bubble wrap can be stored for reuse, or recycled. Foam packing chips are not as easily recycled; if you don’t want to store this material for reuse, take it to a shipping center like Mailboxes. etc, who will accept it for their own use. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling; storing and reusing these boxes is even better as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.
• Save any special gift wrap, ribbons and bows

When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse; it can often be cut down for smaller presents. Creased wrapping can be ironed flat. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse.
• Recycle old electronics
New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, cell phones and other electronic items are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced are usually still in working order, however, and should not be discarded to a landfill. Here is information to help recycle these items: 
Recycling electronic goods
• Christmas trees can be recycled too 
Live trees that have been cut are a useful material for composting. Composting requires a carbon source and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood. Artificial trees which are up for replacement can also be recycled. These trees are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers.

Note: Never burn Christmas tree branches in your fireplace. It can cause the buildup of creosote, which is a highly flammable compound.

“Upcycle” Your Holiday Cards

The holiday season is upon us, which means you are most likely about to receive a ton of holiday greeting cards from friends and loved ones. It’s always nice to receive a heartfelt card around the holidays, but what are you supposed to do with the cards after the holidays are over, throw them away? Instead of disposing of your holiday cards this year, try reusing them in creative ways. This article from Seventh Generation, has 5 cool, creative ways to enjoy your holiday cards this year, and holidays to come.

5 Fun Ways to Upcycle Old Holiday Cards

On my first holiday as a married woman, I was a little surprised to see that my affluent in-laws cut off the front of old greeting cards and used them as gift tags. Flash forward several decades and their frugal Yankee ways are now recognized as “upcycling.” Whatever you call it, that first holiday (and my in-laws) inspired me to find second and even third uses for just about everything, including old holiday cards. Here are five fun ideas to inspire you.

Holiday Card Gift Tags

No craft skills needed to create the cards in our post photo. Just cut the back off old cards and tape or tie the front to packages this year. Of course, if you’re feeling a little craftier, cut the card fronts into different shapes, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon to the tag. This is a fun project for your children, too!

Holiday Card Place Card

Personalized place markers make great holiday keepsakes for guests. Cut a 2×3-inch piece from a card and fold in half. Add a ribbon for trim and a printed piece of paper with your guest’s name. For an extra personalized touch, add a photo of your guest.

Recycled holiday place cards

Holiday Card Pinecone Ornament

This inspiration comes from Better Homes and Gardens. Use a flower punch to punch flowers from cards of coordinating colors (browns, creams, golds, oranges, and reds and shown here). Trim the punched-out flowers in half, and then in half again so you’re left with individual petals. Start at the bottom of a 1-7/8×2-1/2-inch Styrofoam egg and hot glue petals on in rows, overlapping as you move up. Don’t worry if the hot-glue melts the foam a bit. It will give the pinecone a natural uneven texture.

Recycled holiday card ornaments

Recipe Cards

About as simple (and special) as it gets. Re-use holiday cards as recipe cards to include with holiday food gifts.

Recycled recipe cards craft


Cut the fronts from old holiday cards send them as postcards. Remember that postcards require less postage than a regular card!

Recycled postcards craft


Make Your Holiday Less Stressful

The holiday season is the best and, sometimes, worst time of year. It’s the best because you get time together with your loved ones, and a little time off from work doesn’t hurt either. The other side of the holiday season, however, is filled with the stresses that can come with gift shopping, holiday cards, and holiday parties. By keeping things organized during this crazy time of year, you can help cut back on some of the stress which can come with the holiday season. Here are a few tips from Enviro Maids, on how to stay organized and less stressed this year.

How to stay organized during the busy holiday season

How to stay organized during the busy holiday season, December 2013Each year the holidays seem to sneak up faster than the year before. You’d like to relax and enjoy the season, but it’s hard to do when you’re inundated with lots of tasks and little time to get it all done. To help keep you on track this busy holiday season, we’ll share tips on how to get organized and stress less with help from and

Holiday Allies

Your calendar and checklists will be your best allies this holiday. How do you get everything you need to get done without feeling frazzled? Start by jotting down everything you hope to get done during the season. Include everything from cutting down a tree, to hosting a cookie exchange, sending cards, making your own gifts, parties to attend, and everything in between. Once your list is complete, edit it down by prioritizing items from things that must get done to things that are not as important. Once your list has been narrowed down (be realistic) mark each occurrence on your calendar. Stick to the dates as you would any other appointment — bake on the 10th, shop for the holiday party on the 11th, etc.


Now that your calendar is filled, your next step is to create or download checklists for each task or event. For example, you can have a gift giving checklist, a card sending checklist, a baking checklist, etc. Each list will help you stay on track to help get things done more efficiently. A gift giving checklist, for example, should have separate columns — name of recipient, budget, gift idea, store where to purchase gift, etc. This list will help you stay on budget and let you monitor who you still need to buy for.

Gift giving

Gift giving can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays. There are many things to contend with: deciding who to buy for, figuring out what to buy someone who has everything, sticking to a budget, the list goes on and on. Put the joy back into giving a gift by trying these suggestions:

  • For large families consider drawing names or buying just for the children.
  • Set a price limit so everyone spends the same amount.
  • Pick an annual gift theme — buy everyone on your list useful gadgets, personalized baskets, restaurant gift cards, or seasonal gear.


Everyone likes to receive holiday cards, but carving out time to write you own can be a little challenging. Some shortcuts to card writing include:

  • Handwritten notes have a special personalized touch, but when crunched for time purchasing custom printed cards online is a huge timesaver.
  • If you decide to hand write your cards and envelopes, make the process go a little faster by enlisting the help of your children. Older children can stuff, seal and stamp each envelope.
  • To avoid writer’s cramp, create address labels on your computer. Once all your addresses are saved, the process will go by faster next year. Other tips:
  • Take the pressure off yourself when party hosting — have everyone bring an appetizer or dessert to your holiday party or holiday dinner.
  • Shop online to avoid crowds and lines
  • If you do venture out to shop, shop early in morning or later in the evening when stores aren’t as chaotic.

Tips For A Greener Christmas

With Christmas merely a week away, many people are beginning to plan for their holiday. Some people will be traveling, others hosting, and many running around at the last minute frantically buying gifts. With so much going on around the holidays and so much on people’s minds, it’s easy to forget the impact we can have on the environment around this time of year. So while you may be dreaming of a “white Christmas”, here are a few tips for a “green Christmas”.

“Wrapping Paper”- Make your own wrapping paper from old newspapers and/or magazines. If you do happen to buy wrapping paper, make sure you recycle it.

“Christmas Lights”- I’m not saying don’t put lights on your Christmas tree or even a few decorative lights outside, but nobody’s house needs to be seen from space. If you are decorating your house with lights, be sure to use LED lights. Also, taking down the lights after the new year is a good idea, no need for Christmas lights on St. Patty’s.

“Thermostat”- If you happen to be hosting a holiday party this year, lower the thermostat. If you are cooking the heat from the oven and the extra body warmth from guests should warm up the place. And if not, at least now there is an excuse to break out those (so ugly they’re cool) holiday sweaters.

“Dishes”- If you are hosting, use real dishes and utensils. This way you don’t have to throw out large numbers of paper/plastic plates.

“Real Tree”- If you are going to get a tree, make sure to get a real tree. Real trees can be composted after their use, while plastic trees need petroleum to be made, and aren’t recycled easily when you’re done with them. Not to mention, nothing looks or smells better than a real Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays!

Tipping For The Holidays

A common question asked when it comes to having your home cleaned is, “how much do I tip the cleaning crew?”. When it comes to tipping the cleaning crew (just like any other situation in which you would tip someone) I think it comes down to a few factor, such as; how much work was done? Were you satisfied with the job? Were they polite? Etc….. But how should you tip around the holidays? Here is an article from Market Watch which gives you tips on how to handle tipping this holiday season. 

Holiday tips are one of the first expenses to fall by the wayside when times are tough, and they’re sometimes the last to bounce back. Even though consumers say they plan to spend more on gifts, decorations and other purchases this year, experts say tipping will remain fairly flat.

Last year, 39% of consumers didn’t tip any of their service providers, up from 38% in 2010, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Average tip amounts have held steady, with $20 averages for providers including garbage collectors, teachers, hairstylists, newspaper carriers and pet-care providers. “Tips are pretty uniform,” says Tobie Stanger, senior project editor for the Consumer Reports National Research Center, which tracks gifting for 10 different service providers. “We haven’t seen much of a change.”

There are some small signs that budget crunches are easing, if only slightly: 68% of people gave a cash tip or gift to their housecleaner in 2011, up from 61% the year before, according to the survey. While about the same number of people (34%) tipped a pet-care provider, more gave a check or cash, versus a gift, which could be less valuable. Some consumers are also talking about giving a little more, says Jodi R.R. Smith, founder of etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith.

Experts say tipping etiquette varies by region — states on either coast tend to focus more on cash tips, for example, while Middle America favors gifts, Stanger says. And the appropriate amount to give can vary based on local pricing. A regular stylist is typically given a gift that’s equivalent to the cost for one appointment, for instance, an amount tha may be much more or less than the median $20. Skipping the tip, however, is a bad idea no matter where you live, says Teri Rogers, the founder of real-estate guide You risk poor service going forward. More important, it’s rude, says Smith.

Try these tips for giving without offending:

Say thanks

Include a thank you note with any holiday tip. “Holiday giving is really a way of saying thank you,” Stanger says. A grateful note is especially important if you’re giving less than usual — or can’t afford to give at all, she says. That lets recipients know that they’re not being snubbed.

Calculate rates

The rule of thumb is to tip the cost of one session for a provider you see regularly, like a personal trainer, babysitter or lawn-care provider, says Smith. “If you’re somebody who only gets your hair cut twice a year, you can scale it down appropriately,” she says. Daily helpers like nannies, elder-care workers and dog walkers should get more: Give a week’s pay, at least. Ask neighbors what they tip for service people you don’t pay directly, such as a building superintendent or garage attendant, says Rogers. Those amounts tend to vary widely.

Consider gifts

Cash is preferable for most recipients, but in a few cases, gifts are the better choice. “In a lot of school districts, they frown upon teachers getting cash. It could be looked on as a bribe,” Stanger explains. Postal workers can’t accept cash, or any gift valued at more than $25. Consider such restrictions when deciding whether cash or a gift is more appropriate. Gift-giving etiquette means putting thought into the item you pick. A generic gift card is better than one to a specific store if you don’t know what the housekeeper likes, says Smith


Green Holiday Tips

Hectic Holiday Shopping

The holidays are quickly approaching and there is still much to do.  Take a moment from your hectic holiday planning and check out these simple, no-nonsense ways to green your holiday season.  These tips may even save you some time to sit back, relax and actually enjoy the season with your family and friends.

Gift wrap:

Here are some great ideas for gift wrapping alternatives.

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs or bandannas
  • Old posters and maps
  • Pages from a child’s coloring book taped together (this is especially nice for relatives who would enjoy the artwork)
  •  Old newspapers
  •  Last year’s holiday paper (press with warm iron if wrinkled)
  •  Wallpaper scraps
  •  Pictures or advertisements from magazines and catalogs (you probably shouldn’t use the Victoria’s Secret catalog)
  •  Sunday comic pages
  • Paper bags from the grocery store

Bows and ribbons:

  • Reusable items, such as hair bows, ornaments, shoe laces or toys
  • Stencils or pictures from holiday cards pasted onto a plain brown paper bag or box
  •  Last year’s holiday cards cut up for gift tags
  •  Old neckties

 Packing material alternatives:

  • Biodegradable starch packing peanuts (available at a lot of shipping stores and online)
  • Crumpled ads from the newspaper (The ink on glossy paper won’t smear as it does on the rest of the newspaper)

Gift ideas:

Instead of giving the usual gifts of plastic toys made in China or the latest and greatest electronic gadget; consider giving thoughtful gifts this year that are not resource-consuming. Some of the most favored and remembered gifts are those we can make ourselves.

  • Look for gifts that are unpackaged or minimally packaged, without unnecessary plastic wrap or cardboard backing.
  • Evaluate the gift for simplicity and durability.
  • Buy durable gifts with long-term warranties (cue Lexus commercial).
  • Know the store’s return policy and include tags or receipts for easier exchange or return.
  • Consider the impact of your gift: Is it environmentally friendly and safe for children? Will it be reusable? Is it recyclable or made from recycled materials?
  • Purchase holiday cards made from recycled paper or make your own from items found around the home.
  • Give an experience (for example, a hike in the mountains or a day trip on a train).
  • Give a garden! Seeds, gloves, tools, etc.
  • Create a family recipe book.

After the holidays

Sierra Club TV offers similar tips and some others we haven’t covered in the following video.

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Have other green holiday tips? Share them in the comments.

Happy Holidays from Clean Conscience!

Photo credit: Lars Plougmann - Flickr