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Make This Valentine’s Day Green

Today is February 14th, Valentine’s Day. The color most associated with Valentine’s Day is red, but this year perhaps you could infuse a different color, green. No, I’m not talking about money when I say green, instead I mean to come up with ways to celebrate this holiday of love by creating less waste, being more creative with your gifts, and saving some “green” (this time I meant money). Our good friends over at Seventh Generation, have compiled a list of 10 ways you can enjoy a greener holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

10 Simple, Sustainable Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day


When you boil it all down, Valentine’s Day is simply about being with the one you love. With that in mind, we invite you spare your budget and your sanity the effects of yet another shopping-driven holiday and enjoy these simpler, more sustainable ways to say, “I Love You.”

1. Create a memory As the song says, “It only takes a moment.” And experts agree that giving an experience, not a thing, makes us happier in the long run. Do a little advance scouting for a fantastic view — city lights, the sunset, the mountains in the distance – then take your valentine there. Bring along a little romantic snack, relax and just savor the moment together.

2. Eat in Valentine’s Day is one of the most notoriously difficult times to get a dinner reservation, which means every restaurant in town is overbooked and anxious to move your dinner along so the next romantic evening can begin. Skip the stress, set a beautiful table at home, and cook a meal together. You can relax, and spend the kind of time you’d never be able to enjoy anywhere else.

3. Create an edible greeting Skip the before and after waste that comes from greeting cards and “pen” your sentiments in icing on a cookie or a cupcake, then present it in person – no stamp required!

4. Share the love Before, after, or instead of celebrating as a couple, share a little love in places where people really need it. Bring Valentine’s Day treats to your local teen or homeless shelter, spend a little time in your local hospital’s children’s ward reading or doing simple crafts, or volunteer at your local animal shelter.

5. Watch a romantic comedy at home What’s more romantic – waiting in line to see the just-released romance in a crowded theater (during the height of flu season, no less) or curling up on the couch with a bottle of  eco-friendly wine some snacks and your significant other to watch a classic romance?

6. Make some music Not super tech savvy?  No worries. These days just about any type of music you want is just an online search away, which means you can create a romantic and highly personalized playlist with ease. You don’t even have to know how to burn the music to a CD – just share it directly online.

7. Say “I Love You” in another tongue There’s something about hearing someone tell you they love you in a different language that’s irresistible. This little exercise teaches you how to say, “I Love You” in fifty different languages. Practice together and see which languages speak to you!

8. Choose chocolate with care Valentine’s Day surely rivals Halloween as one of the most chocolate-laden holidays going. And let’s face it, chocolate is an easy, go-to gift that’s hard to resist. But before you grab for the nearest heart-shaped box full, think again. Cocoa farming is associated with some serious ethical and environmental problems. Choose fair-trade chocolate for a truly loving gift.

9. Put it into words A letter can say what no pre-written card can, and all you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and an envelope. Check in here for tips on saying what you feel.

10. Love yourself By choice or by chance, not everyone is in a relationship. For those of us going solo, Valentine’s Day can be unbearably annoying, or even depressing. You can ignore the day entirely, or you can devote some time to loving yourself! Treat yourself to a bouquet of organically grown flowers, indulge yourself with a spa treatment, a bit of fair-trade chocolate and the reminder that you don’t have to wait for someone else to make you feel loved.

Tips to Help You Keep Your New Years Resolutions

Today is January 3rd, just two days since New Years, and I guarantee their are already a few people who either started to rethink their resolutions or even gave up on them. It’s no secret, keeping New Years resolutions can be tough. And, if you happen to be one of those who don’t think they can keep their resolutions, think again. In this article from Organized Christmas, you are given several tips on how to help you stick with this years resolutions. So, check out some of these tips and hopefully they’ll help you reach your goals.

Keeping New Year’s Resolutions: New Year, New You!

Keep New Year's ResolutionsNew Year’s Eve … a festive beginning to a new year. It’s a good time to take stock and decide to move toward a happier, more organized life.

But too often, what looks so easy as the minute hand approaches midnight falls away in the cold light of January days.

For most of us, New Year’s resolutions die a slow and quiet death. They’re tossed aside, along with the party hats and noisemakers.

As January winds down, so does motivation, energy and desire for change.

New Year’s resolutions wither along with the Christmas poinsettias because they lack strong roots in real life. It’s not the resolution that’s at fault–it’s the follow-through! New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but much harder to make real in the noisy bustle of everyday chores and concerns.

Stop! Don’t let those resolutions slip away so quickly! Each one represents a longing of the heart, a reach toward better health, happiness, knowledge or wisdom. Try these concepts to revive and strengthen your New Year’s resolutions.

Resolve Globally, Act Locally

This familiar slogan tells a truth about personal change: however lofty the goal, the engine for making changes comes from small, daily steps. Translate each resolution ( I will lose 15 pounds this year, I will teach myself machine knitting.) into specific daily and weekly actions toward the goal.

Those who wish to lose weight? Resolve to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day, and attend three aerobics classes each week. The would-be machine knitter will spend one-half hour each day working on the lessons in the machine manual, and take a Saturday seminar twice a month. Both have worked out their resolutions into concrete, specific steps toward a larger goal.

Distinguish between your goal and the acts necessary to reach the goal. It’s the step-by-step changes each day, each week, that carry a New Year’s resolution to fruition.

Add, Don’t Subtract

Humans being what they are, it’s far easier to add new behaviors than to subtract old, established habits. As you put your resolutions into action, frame them in terms of positive changes, not negative ones.

Our dieter, who will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, isn’t going to tangle with her passion for chocolate–not just yet. Instead, she’ll focus on the good, new added resolution instead of grappling with the old bad habits of a chocoholic. The added fiber and nutrition will go a long way toward reducing hunger, and as her tastes change, she will find the chocolate habit weakened. Only then will she move against the Chocolate Beast, buoyed up by her success.

And even if she never slays the Beast? She’s fed her body the good stuff first!

Write It Down

Often, New Year’s resolutions evaporate because they’re never written down or shared with an accountability partner. Talk’s cheap–and never cheaper than when one is fantasizing about change. Too often, the desire to improve fades away with the sound of the conversation.

Put your resolutions on a body-building plan!

First, harness the power of the pen (or computer or smartphone!). Write out each resolution: the goal, reasons for aspiring to the goal, and the individual steps–daily, weekly, monthly–that you’ll use to reach the goal. Putting a resolution in writing lets you refer to it often, and gives the plan a substance and validity that will help create motivation.

Print a free New Year’s Resolutions form to track your progress!

Planner users review their resolution plan during each day’s planning session. Posting the resolution on the refrigerator door reminds a dieter of his or her goal.

Become Accountable

Best of all, find an accountability partner: a trusted friend, family member or support group who is invested in the success of your resolution. Share your resolution with your accountability partner, and work out a check-in system at least once a week. An accountability partner can celebrate successes, help analyze failures, and provide a hefty dose of motivation on a regular basis.

Tap Tech Support

Online support groups offer instant accountability and support, and can be great motivators as you put New Year’s resolutions into practice. Only one clutterholic can truly understand another clutterholic’s euphoria at clearing a shelf or decluttering a drawer. Best, online groups are available 24 hours a day to listen, advise and share.

Web sites and mobile apps can help bolster New Year’s resolutions with resources and inspiration. Whether it’s tracking exercise and diet, keeping a gratitude list, or working on your reading list, check out tech helpers to promote healthy change.

Get Back Up On The Horse

Don’t let New Year’s resolutions fall victim to the first little slip! Those who study successful self-change know that one indicator for eventual success at changing habits is previous unsuccessful attempts at change.

When you do fall off the plan sit back and figure out why–then work to solve the problem standing between you and your goal. Is that resolution to exercise falling by the wayside in a busy life? Sit down and schedule the gym first each day. Was the new diet sabotaged by fast-food lunches? Decide to set aside an hour each Sunday to assemble a healthier substitute for the week’s lunches.

Then try again! Don’t let a small stumble stand in the way. Learn from each setback, and keep moving forward.

The new year is only just begun. Don’t count those New Year’s resolutions out–just yet! Breath new life into them, and move toward a more organized, healthier, happier life in your organized home. Be it resolved!


Some “Green” New Years Resolutions

New Years is just a few days away, and with that in mind, maybe it’s time to start thinking of some New Years resolutions. Now, I’m sure most people (like myself) already have a few of the more common New Years resolutions in mind, such as, eating less and exercising more, volunteering, and maybe giving up a favorite treat like chocolate or alcohol. While these are all very good changes to try to make for this coming new year, there are also some changes you can make that will not only help you out but the environment as well. Here are a few New Years resolution ideas from Mother Nature Network, that will help cut your carbon footprint as well as save you some bucks in 2014.

10 easy, green New Year’s resolutions for the eco-slacker

It’s easy to think about all the big changes you’re going to make in the New Year as the old year comes to an end — but by the second week of January, most of us are already finding reasons to skip the gym or break the spending freeze. That’s why we’ve come up with ten green New Year’s resolutions so easy you’ll have no excuse not to keep them — and as they help you save money, cut your carbon footprint, decrease your home’s waste stream, and improve the quality of the Earth, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Never buy bottled water again
Trade your bottled water habit for an at-home filtering pitcher and you can help make a dent in the 1.5 million barrels of oil used to make plastic water bottles each year; pair it with a reusable bottle (like one made of glass, aluminum, or recycled plastic), and you’ll always be prepared to tackle your thirst. Bonus: With bottled water no longer on your shopping list, you could save as much as $1,400 this year.
2. Brew your own Fair Trade coffee
Carrying your own coffee in an insulated travel mug helps you reduce waste from cardboard cups and carrying sleeves — which are thrown away at a staggering rate of58 billion each year. For greener at-home brewing, choose a Fair Trade blend that supports farmers; add organic milk instead of artificial creamers; and try a French press(instead of a traditional brewer) to save electricity.
3. Remember your reusable bags
With more than 1 million plastic bags ending up in the trash every minute, takingreusable bags to the store is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint — but the hardest part about using them is simply remembering to take them with you. A set like this one from Blue Avocado is almost impossible to forget: It comes with six different bags, sized for everything from frozen goods to fresh fruit, and the entire collection folds down into a slim packet for easy transport.
4. Cut back on paper towels
If you’re grabbing a paper towel for everything from wiping up spills and cleaning your counter to scrubbing the bathroom and keeping your hands clean at dinner, it’s time tomake a change. Instead, invest in a few cotton cloths and some fabric napkins; then drop them in the wash when you run a load of laundry. Using the cloth alternatives is just as easy as using the paper versions, and you only need to buy them once — plus you can help eliminate the 3,000 tons of paper towels that end up landfills every day.
5. Use a bike for short trips
It takes a certain amount of dedication to permanently give up a car in favor of a bike, but even an eco-slacker can make it work for short trips that don’t require hauling a lot of stuff: picking up milk at the local grocery store, after-dinner ice cream at your favorite dessert spot, your morning yoga class, brunch with friends at the coffee shop. Ride your bike for trips shorter than 2 miles and you could cut your carbon footprint significantly, save money on gasoline and car maintenance, and increase your fitness level — all at the same time.
6. Order from your local CSA
Going to the farmer’s market always sounds like such a great idea — until Saturday morning rolls around and you realize you have to get up early, have enough cash, and fight other customers for the best strawberries. Instead, have your local CSA programdo the hard part for you by putting together a box of their best produce each week — and, if you’re really feeling lazy, have it delivered right to your door so you get fresh, local fruits and vegetables without giving up your lazy coffee-and-crossword mornings.
7. Become a weekend vegetarian
Cutting meat out of your diet just two days a week can decrease your carbon footprint by about 1/3 of a ton — and coming up with meat-free meals for Saturday and Sunday isn’t as hard as it sounds. Try pancakes and fruit for breakfast; fresh salads or roasted vegetable sandwiches for lunch; and veggie pizza, bean soups, and creamy risottos for dinner. And since doubling a recipe rarely adds any time to your prep work, you can make extras to eat throughout the week (and trim your carbon footprint even more).
8. Eliminate phantom power
It takes approximately one second to unplug the charger for your cell phone, mp3 player, e-reader, or iPad — but if you really can’t be bothered, then let nifty, energy-efficient gadgets do the work for you. Use power strips to turn off all your appliances at once; put your television, DVD player, game system, and stereo on a timer so they automatically shut off overnight; and invest in chargers that stop drawing current when the device’s battery is full. You could cut your energy bill by as much as 10 percent annually — without lifting a finger.
9. Switch to green power
Switching your home to run on green power sounds like a big job — installing solar panels, geothermal energy, or a tankless hot water heater is not a job for the construction-impaired. But you can also make this happen without getting out of your chair: Call your local energy company and see if they offer renewable options (most do). You might see a small jump in your bill, but it’s an easy way to make a big change.
10. Replace your lightbulbs
Replacing your lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lights may be the ultimate change for the eco-slacker. Despite all the jokes, it takes only one person to change a lightbulb — and since CFLs last longer than traditional bulbs, you’ll be saving time for years down the road while cutting your energy use by as much as 80 percent. Can’t even face the hardware store? Order your bulbs online and have them come straight to your door.

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.

Avoid Salmonella This Holiday

With Thanksgiving just two days away, I’m sure many of us can already smell the turkey and taste the stuffing and potatoes. While I’m sure everyone is prepared to make a delicious feast and has all of their spices and garnishes ready, there is one thing that you shouldn’t overlook this holiday…….salmonella. Needless to say, a case of salmonella poisoning can destroy an otherwise perfect Thanksgiving. Luckily, our friends at The Clean Team, have some tips on how to avoid a salmonella outbreak this holiday. So, read up, and have a safe and happy holiday. Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!

Don’t Serve Up Salmonella This Holiday Season 

You may feel confident when cooking up that bird and seasoning those veggies, but do you know how to avoid serving up deadly dose of kitchen bacteria like salmonella? According to the Center For Disease Control, over 40,000 people each year get salmonella poisoning. However, with these simple steps, salmonella can be avoided.

  1. When you set raw meat on counter tops, you create a harbinger of bacteria. Wipe up meat juices with a paper towel, spray the counter with an anti-bacterial cleaner (mix  your own solution of 1 part bleach, 10 parts water for example), and wipe clean with another paper towel. Don’t use a dish cloth for this job; it’s not worth risking someone washing the dishes or the table with this contaminated cloth.
  2. Use two cutting boards when cutting up meat and veggies – one for the meat, a different one for the veggies – washing cutting boards carefully with hot soapy water between uses. Never cut raw vegetables on the meat cutting board.
  3. Avoid cleaning up raw meat juices with a sponge since germs get trapped in the sponge, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. And if you do get raw meat juices in your sponge, rinse in hot soapy water, then microwave the sponge for one minute. Be careful when removing; let it cool to the touch first.
  4. After handling raw meat, be sure and wash your hands vigorously with warm soapy water for at least one minute. And be careful to clean up under those long acrylic fingernails, as they can be completely missed during hand washing.
  5. Wash all utensils that touch raw meat, like platters or plates, with hot soapy water before placing the cooked meat back on.
  6. Store raw meat on the lower shelf of the fridge, and raw vegetables on the higher shelves, to protect against mean drips or spills contaminating those raw veggies.

Serve up a safe, healthy meal during the holidays with just a little attention to proper clean up and food handling.

Halloween Cleanup

This Thursday, the streets will be full of ghosts, witches, monsters, and just about anything else you can imagine. Halloween is a time to scare and be scared. Let’s face it, when else is it acceptable to wear tattered clothes stained in blood while wielding an axe? Unfortunately, the real scary stuff comes after the candy, costumes and parties………the clean-up! Luckily, the good people at Enviro Maids, have some tips on how to tackle the post-Halloween mess.

Cleaning up after Halloween

Ghouls and goblins aren’t the only things that’ll give you a fright this Halloween. After a Cleaning up after Halloween, October 2013night of trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and mischief (thanks to the neighborhood kids egging your house) you’ll be left with the frightening task of cleaning up after the festivities are over. With the help of House Logic and All You, we’ll show you how to get rid of the sticky wax, glittery makeup, rolls of toilet paper and more. Luckily all you need is a little elbow grease and products that you probably already have on hand. Now that’s our idea of a treat!

Stuck-on candle wax

Candles help create the dimly-lit, spooky mood associated with Halloween. But once you blow out the candles and turn on the lights, you may have to deal with the horror of wax drippings. Remove wax from carpeting by first waiting until it’s completely hardened; carefully scrape as much wax as you can with a dull knife. To remove remaining wax, place a flat piece of paper bag on the waxy area and smooth a warm iron over the paper bag that’s covering the stain. The wax should transfer to the paper bag.
To remove candle wax spills from wood furniture or floors, avoid using a knife as the blade can scratch the wood. A safer way is to soften the wax using a hairdryer set to medium heat. When the wax starts to melt, wipe it off with a soft cloth. Finish by wiping the area with a white vinegar and warm water solution.


Glitter is a must-have accessory when putting on the finishing touches to a fairy princess costume. But once you’ve put your little one’s princess costume away, you begin to regret your decision to use glitter since it’s still showing up everywhere. Just when you think you’ve tackled all the glitter, the sparkling bits seem to reappear out of nowhere. Vacuum up as much glitter you can, using a soft brush attachment to vacuum furniture. To pick up any remaining sparkles, roll a lint rollerball or some mailing tape over the sparkly areas.

Toilet paper

One of the most common sights of Halloween are the tree-lined front yards “decorated” with endless ribbons of toilet paper. If your yard has been TP’d, try to remove the toilet paper as soon as possible. Toilet paper that becomes wet from dew or rainfall is painstakingly challenging to remove. If the toilet paper is already damp, wait until it’s dry before attempting removal. To reach toilet paper high up in a tree, use a rake to scrape it down, or a leaf blower to blow it free from the branches. Another method is to wrap duct tape around a stick (sticky side up) and use it for hard to reach areas.


Perhaps the most burdensome task of all Halloween cleanups is egg removal. The key to successfully removing egg from the siding of your house is to act fast. Once dried, the caked-on mess sticks like glue to the surface, making it much more difficult to remove. Never use hot water, as hot water will cook the egg making it stick to the surface. Point the nozzle of a hose above the splattered mess to carefully flush the egg down the siding. If eggs are already stuck on, place a rag soaked in half water, half vinegar on the area for about 15 minutes; rinse. For stubborn stains, a power washer and a solution of one part warm water, one part white vinegar and a squirt of dish detergent is your best ally.

Eco-Friendly Halloween Decorations

BLOG-HALLOWEEN1Last week we talked about some eco-friendly Halloween costume ideas. These were costumes that could be homemade, or costumes that didn’t use things that weren’t biodegradable, like plastic masks and synthetic wigs. It’s just as important to think about the environment when you’re decorating your home for Halloween as well. Luckily, there are plenty of environmentally friendly decoration ideas for this spooky holiday. Here are a few ideas and tips to help cut back on some the waste, but none of the fun, this Halloween.

“Jack-O-Lantern”- Yes, one of the most popular and oldest Halloween decorations is also one of the most eco-friendly. The whole family can enjoy creating their own spooky or silly pumpkin carving. And, when it’s time to dispose of the rotting pumpkins, you can simply use them for mulch.

“Straw, Corn Stalks and Gourds”- Just like the Jack-o-lantern, these decorations really give your home a nice old-fashioned Halloween vibe. They are also all natural, and can be disposed of in the very same way as the pumpkins.

“Reuse”- Instead of going out and purchasing new decorations, use what you already have tucked away in boxes from previous years. If you do have to buy decorations, try buying them from a secondhand store. Not only will this save you money, it’s also lessening waste.

“Candles”- Set the Halloween mood by lighting home with candles. Not only will this allow you to cut back on some electricity used in certain rooms but it also gives your home a nice spooky glow.

“LED Lights”- If you decide you want to string up lights as part of your decoration, try using solar powered LED lights instead of traditional holiday lights. They use far less energy and are just as effective.

“DIY Decorations”- If you’re feeling creative and want to have some fun with the family, have everyone create their own decoration using just their imagination and whatever is lying around the house or the backyard.