Living Green 365: Season's Green-ings

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Living Green 365

Season's green-ings

holiday waste

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to the nation's garbage piles.

This holiday season consider a new tradition--one that creates less waste, less stress, and more memories.

The idea list

Lessons. A lot of people would like to try new things, but won't spend the money on themselves. A gift certificate might be just the item for someone who would like to begin a new hobby or polish the skills they have already learned. Perhaps you have can even teach them one of your special talents, like how to cook a family recipe.

Time and energy.  Friends or relatives may value help with snow shoveling, vacuuming, or organizing as a gift. Try our downloadable gift certificates as a way to present your gift.

Reused items. Many gifts can be purchased second-hand. Look at Hennepin County's Choose to Reuse directory and ReUse Minnesota for a list of shops. To help you find the perfect present,  choose a shop that specializes in one type of reuse, like kids stuff or sports gear.

Hand made or up-cycled items. This is a spin on the reused idea, but includes artsy, unique and personal touches. You can tackle your own projects or look to local shops.

  • Find shops that sell collectibles, vintage wear, or antiques
  • Gift hand-knit or home-sewn items
  • Create a book of family recipes

Experiences. There are endless possibilities here. A few to get you started:

Living green items. Help others in their living green journey. Ideas include:


Gift wrapping

Did you know that our national annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons? And did you know that if every family just reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet? This year, why not try a new way of wrapping that is elegant, fun, and green? Try Furoshiki!

More ways to reduce holiday waste

  • Carry reusable shopping bags with you when you go holiday shopping
  • Select  reusable batteries for electronics, toys and other gifts
  • Recycle old or broken holiday lights and replace with LED lights
  • Encourage the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods,experiences, time, by listing your ideas on the So Kind Registry
  • Consider the life-cycle of a product before purchasing. Was it produced locally, or thousands of miles away? Is it durable? Is it energy- or water-efficient, made of recycled materials, or recyclable?

What is your favorite gift to give or receive?


Breakfast treat of the month. “Several years in a row I gave my grandparents a one-year “breakfast treat of the month.” Once a month I made sweet bread, muffins, or coffee cake and brought it to their house. It ensured we would get over there for a visit.”--Colleen

Top-10 book list. “My grandma and I share a love of reading. So last year I put together a “Top 10” list of books that I’ve read and enjoyed and thought that she too would enjoy. I did buy her one of the books, but suggested that she get the remaining books through the library.”--Brian


A special experience. “Our granddaughter reads and reads and loves to write stories. We gave her a week-long summer writing camp at the Loft in Minneapolis. She thought she was so cool. Other people might like concert tickets, a cooking class, or a membership to a museum.”--Phyllis

Jar of love. “My son gave me an empty food jar filled with little notes. Each note listed an activity that he'd do with me. He included experiences like bike ride, canoe, cross country skiing, see a movie, and go to a park. What could be better?"--Madalyn


Felted potholders and coasters. “I make potholders and coasters out of old wool sweaters by felting them in the washing machine and cutting them out. The potholders are nice and thick. You can cut out the coasters in lots of shapes.” --Theresa

Community Events and Resources

Discover how your food choices connect to climate change at  Dine for Climate , an event sponsored by the Will Steger Foundation in partnership with local farm-to-table restaurants. The next event takes place on Thursday, January 8th, 5-9 pm at Spoonriver Restaurant in Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is currently accepting applications from individuals interested in AmeriCorps service with Minnesota GreenCorps during the 2014-2015 program year with The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District - Duluth (WLSSD). The position involves assisting WLSSD with developing and implementing school organics and recycling programs. For more information or to apply, visit  MNGREENCORPS.


Send questions or comments about living green to the address below.


Erin Barnes-Driscoll and the Living Green Team