Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Fine Line

I try to be green. I'm far from perfect at it, that's for sure. I try to lead by example. I try to give out information and helpful hints. Above all, I try to not be annoying about it.

Am I succeeding? Should I care about that? Is this issue bigger than my concern that I get on anyone's nerves?

It might seem weird or contrary to the movement, but I tend to stay away from other "greenies". The ones I do meet are few and far between, and very cool. See, a lot of people in this area of interest annoy ME. And besides, I don't need to convert THEM. And they don't need to preach to me. Yes, I can learn things from them, and I do; but, by and large, I mostly avoid. This has its drawbacks. I become overwhelmed with the apathy of people. Being around greenies would probably be soothing some of the time. Or would it?

We tend to be a little preachy, I know. We give disapproving looks. We might come off as a little holier-than-thou. I swear I try to not fall into that. I'm just frustrated, and I have a lot of information to share! And I care! Is that so wrong? Sometimes I want to grab people by the collar and shake them, "Don't you see what's happening? Why are you still using double-bagged plastic bags at the grocery store?? Don't you know better yet???" But I don't. That would be unseemly. Is there going to come a time where we NEED to do that? Is the cause so noble that we should be willing to be a little... annoying every so often? Or do those methods backfire, and turn people off from our lessons?

It is a fine line. I'm not sure how well I'm walkin' it myself. I know I feel as though I am not doing enough. It's a huge thing to tackle, after all... saving the world n'at. And maybe if I stopped worrying about offending people and worried more about the planet, then I wouldn't be so frustrated! What's that about the little tiny earthquakes we don't really feel, relieving the stress so the big ones don't happen... maybe we should let our little quakes out more so we don't blow up at the wrong time, and too much at once. Nothing was ever gained by hiding the light or doing things halfway, right? Hmmm... 2010, what can I do with you?

OK, that's off my chest. I promise, more easy green tips will be coming your way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 12 - in Summary

The economy sucks. We need to be more frugal. Frugality works well with Green. Start with THIS holiday, and keep it as tradition. Make it contagious. BE the change. Be the example. Actually, in our family, we've stopped giving gifts altogether, and focus on a lovely meal and time together. It takes a lot of pressure off an already hectic time.

If you got a late start this holiday, or you just couldn't pull it together, or you had already gotten all your gifts already, then start planning for next year. It's never too early. Start planning the garden so next year can be a holiday of preserves or cooking oils steeped with your own home-grown garlic or herbs, sealed in pretty re-used bottles. Start sewing or knitting or making pottery, whatever your interest, to have hand-made gifts for next year. Get together with your friends once or twice a month, and encourage each other. Keep the new Green ways going all year. Plan ahead. Look around all year for great green gifts, not just at the holidays. You'll be amazed at what you see with your newly opened eyes!

But mostly, for this year, for right now, just make sure you're not being wasteful. Use these tips I have given you, or go with another idea you might have gotten while reading these. Do a little research. It's so easy to give green that there's almost no excuse not to! I take that back: there's NO excuse not to! Even with kids, think about what you are getting them, and realize that quality trumps quantity every time. Teach them valuable lessons. We didn't have a ton of money when I was little, but we had more than enough, we did not want for things, and I had wonderful gifts under the tree every year. Kids do not need 50 presents. Teach them the value of things. This is their Earth. They'll want us to make it a good place for them.

And, Happy Holidays... I hope you enjoy them more and more each year...

Green Gifts: Day 11

Repeat after me: re-gifting is not a sin. Just don't make the mistake of giving it back to the person that gave it to you.

So you got a perfectly nice gift from your Aunt Mynra, but it's just... not you. You can't return it. What do you do? Throw it away? ACK! Put it in the closet or attic or basement and forget about it? That's pointless. It's OK if you know someone who would just love the scent of that perfume that isn't right on you, or really could use that small appliance, seeing as you already have one of you own, or would go nuts over that sweater that's a little too pink for you... It's a beautiful scarf, but you don't wear scarves. They are precious earrings, but you prefer gold over silver... we have all been giving something that would be... well... better for someone ELSE.

Re-gifting is the ultimate form of re-using. If you can't use that gift, but someone else can, what's the problem? Again, use common sense: were they there when you opened the gift in the first place? Might want to skip it. Is it something unique that might get worn around the person that gave it to you originally? Well... better not.  But while you're thinking about shopping, try shopping for a few minutes at home. Say someone gave YOU a spa gift basket, but lavendar makes you sneeze. Make some nice little adjustments, maybe add some other little items, and give that lavendar treat a new home with a better purpose. By all means, GIVE it to someone who will USE it. Otherwise, you're just going to stare at whatever it is for a few years, then get disgusted and throw it away in a fit of Spring Cleaning. 'Tis better to give, much better, than to throw away!

Say it again, out loud, for all to hear: re-gifting is not a sin. Now go shop in your closets.

Green Gifts: Day 10

Got a friend who is looking to expand their horizons? Another great "service" to give as a gift is a class. What are their interests? What is something they have always talked about wanting to learn, but never quite got around to it? Sign them up for a class!

It can be something VERY green such as organic gardening or composting. Workshops are everywhere for those kinds of things. Woodworking? Great! Soap-making - cool. Knitting, sewing, crafts, cooking, baking... really, the ideas are endless. Ceramics, stained glass, pottery... if it's an interest you share with the person, by all means, go with them. You can start making your own homemade presents for next year!

Again, this is a gift that doesn't need to be wrapped, and it feeds into the local economy. And, you are giving that person a nice skill (hopefully a green one) that they can treasure the rest of their lives. This might be a nice pick-me-up for that friend who maybe lost their job or is searching for some hobbby to cheer them up. You might be introducing them to their new livelihood. You never know. But they might just thank you for that Great Green Gift for the rest of your lives!

Green Gifts: Day 9

Who doesn't love a spa day? Being pampered for a few hours or even a day is bliss. And a gift of a spa day is wonderful.

This is green because you are buying a sevice, which doesn't require wrapping! Plus, it helps the economy. Choose a greener spa, though I have to think most of them lean toward natural products. If it's your close group of friends, plan a day for all of you. It doesn't have to be on or around the holiday... make it for when the Winter blahs have gotten to everyone. The certificate can specify a date down the road that you can all agree on. It's a great thing to look forward to after the holidays. Or send your favorite couple so they may spend the day together. Or, just for the one person, if they could use some personal time. Even if it's not a spa, a gift certificate to a lisenced massage therapist is a very thoughtful thing. You can choose a length of time according to your budget. You never know... you might get someone hooked on your favorite therapist, and then everyone wins because they have a new client out of the deal.

If you're sure your gift-recipient won't be able to get away, or just doesn't like to have anyone touch them for that massage (???), put together a spa basket. (Yeah, there I go again with baskets. No, I don't have stock in a basket company.) Find nice natural spa products like bath salts and lotions and oils, and add some candles... maybe some incense... and put in a do-not-disturb sign for them to hang on their bathroom door, so your gift-person can enjoy a bit of uninterrupted "me" time.

Green Gifts: Day 8

Got a cook in the gift pool? Then a great green gift for them in an herb garden!

You can find kits for them everywhere. You can grow them anywhere. From a New York apartment to a Los Angeles condo and all the homes in between... all herbs need is a windowsill and some sun. Get your friends and family in the habit of cooking with fresh herbs (an especially nice thing to have handy in cold winter months), and maybe they'll be inspired to grow their own outside come Summertime.

ChiaPet? No... but the Chia Herb Collection is actually a very nice gift. Seriously! But if that makes you shudder, feel free to find others. This is another chance to put a nice basket together, as well. Almost any gift, especially the green kind, makes a nice presentation in a basket. Throw in some gardening gloves and seed packets to encourage planting in the Spring.

Gift yourself while you're at it with this one!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a Battle.

So... sometimes it comes up that I am a Green Warrior. (And yes, it is a war. This story proves it. Uphill BATTLE!) When that comes up, I tend to get regaled with stories of wrongs done against the environment. Allow me to share the lastest one with you, because if I don't get it out of my brain... well, let's not find out.

My hair stylist shared with me how good her 5-year-old daughter is at conserving water. Great! Then she told me how bad her brother was. That's where the story gets hair-raising. I shuddered to learn he has kids of his own to pass the badness down.

You know those vending machines that will fill a gallon of water for a quarter? LOVE those things. Reverse osmosis, great clean water, it's wonderful to be able to go to those to fill your containers. I've done it when I didn't have a faucet-mounted filter. Take your empties down and fill a bunch for the week. Great. It never occurred to me that THIS could happen: The brother in question actually said (paraphrasing of course), why go to the gas station and pay $1 or more for a bottle of water, when you can just take an empty single-use bottle and fill it at one of those machines for 25 cents?

...... *blink, blink* ...........

Uh, because of the enormous WASTE of water??? In a state that has a water crisis?? It's gonna dispense a gallon, no matter what. It's what it does. So you fill your little bottle and let the rest run out onto nothing???  This would never ever enter my mind, and I was shocked that anyone would even think to do that. (I hope he's the exception, not the rule, but I don't have that much faith in humanity.) What can we do when faced with such disregard, such willful ignorance, such nonchalance toward the the issues of the environment? How do we fight it? I do not have the answer. I guess all we can do is keep teaching by example, and perhaps when we see wrongs being committed, do our best to educate. Gently. Patiently. I know it's hard. Trust me, I know. But what else can we do?

Green Gifts: Day 7

Get your aromatherapy on!

For those in your friend/family group who just love aromatherapy, it's an easy choice. Get them their favorites. And for those who always have a scent going on in the home but use chemical products, essential oils are wonderful! You can introduce them to a new world of NATURAL scents. Intimidated at trying to pick a scent for someone? Nah. Just think... when you walk into their home, do you smell cinnamon? Vanilla? Or floral scents, maybe? Lavendar? Are these scents products of Dow and SC Johnson, or Nature? If you have to say anything other than "Nature", then a holiday gift is a wonderful way to introduce someone to a greener way of smelling good. They'll be healthier, the planet will be healthier, and that makes everyone happy!

My wonderful friends back in Pennsylvania are steeped in herbology and essentials. (No pun intended!) You can check them out for great information and wonderful products. They know it all. Almost makes me wish I was still back there to learn with them! Visit Ruth and Tom at They rock! You can also check out the wonderful Tina at for information, products, and classes. Tina and Maryanne are the original Twisted Sisters!

On this coast, my favorite essential expert is Noelle of She makes some lovely blends and sells diffusers that are amazing. I have the car diffuser that plugs right in and makes my driving experience a whole lot more pleasant. (Thanks Noelle!) What a great gift for anyone who drives a lot! You can also tune in to the Good Green Witch radio show, when Noelle came in to chat with us about aromatherapy and its many benefits:

I could go on and on about the health benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy, but I'll let you visit these sites and leave it to the experts! I'm just here to suggest the gifts. Suffice it to say, any time you can convert someone to natural oils instead of cans of spray or those Glade chemical thingies, you are helping Green the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 6

Candles! We love candles, and they make great gifts, BUT....

Not all candles are created equal. Some are "greener" than others. For instance, candles made from soy will last longer that paraffin candles, and they are made from... well, SOY instead of paraffin, which is petroleum-based. I cannot say soy candles are healthier for YOU than regular paraffin, as some will claim, but they hold a scent better, and avoiding petroleum products is always preferable. That IS healthier for everything and everyone, I think. Plus, soy comes from the US. It's grown right here. So there's that. Plus, my good friend Michelle "Green Coach" Carroll says that you can use the melted wax as a moisturizer for your hands! She has some very nice gifts and suggestions on her site: Please check her out!

Pure beeswax candles are also a nice choice. I've seen claims that 100% beeswax candles actually help the air around feel better and cleaner. I'll let you decided for yourself on that one. They might seem pricey, but they last MUCH longer than paraffin candles, and besides, these are gifts! There are some truly beautiful beeswax candles out there. Beeswax is a by-product of honey, so it's not like your harming bees to get a candle. Also, this is a good way to spread the appreciation of honeybees. They are in trouble, and awareness is always a good thing in my book.

There you have it: some good suggestions for the candle-afficianado on your list, or for that host/hostess gift. Green gifts are so easy that you barely need to think about it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 5

Before we go any further with gifts, I want to address an important part of being greener in your gift-giving. Wrapping!

When you think about it, doesn't it seem silly to buy a product that is specifically designed and meant to be torn up and thrown away? Downright crazy! It makes me wonder what other thing out there with which we do the same.... hmmm....

Anyway. Get creative! use the comics from Sunday's paper. That's fun and colorful! Use the paper shopping bags from the grocery store and let the kids decorate it! That's a good, fun rainy-day project. Use the colorful mail flyers. Even take-out menus make interesting wrapping. For small gifts, you can use magazine pages.

Another great idea for green gifts are pretty bags which can be re-used. For larger gifts, a reusable shopping bag is ideal. Shred some colorful junk mail for filler. Fabric bags are also a very nice touch. Or, get some fun bandanas from the dollar store and use those.

There are many options which do not require and waste to be created, or any trees to be destroyed. Make this a holiday for as little waste as possible, and create a new tradition for you and your family and friends. All it takes is a little time and a little bit of thought to be greener this years and the years to come.

Plus, you saved a few dollars by not buying something that will just be thrown away.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 4

Let's hone in on a specific gift today. Jewelry always makes a nice present, and you can be green with that as well. You can find lovely things at fair-trade stores, such as Ten Thousand Villages ( for store locations) or at your local farmers' market. You can find beautiful things at antique stores... and of course that's green because it is something that is being reused. AND it'll be unique.

Recycled product jewelry is also all the rage! These are super-cool, super-cute items that don't just look pretty, but also raise awareness. Your gift-person can then go out in the world proudly sporting the jewelry and raise even more awareness. Look at Green with Envy ( for some good suggestions and ideas!

You'll be the hit of the gift-giving crowd by being the green-gift giver! (Say that 3 times fast, I triple-dog dare you) Hopefully you're starting to get some great green ideas of your own... :)

This was a quick one, but it really is THAT easy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 3

There was a "Friends" episode in which the girls were broke, so they baked for everyone as the holiday tips. Of course, zaniness and hilarity ensued. Their newspaper guy tore up their newspaper and their mailman smashed their mail and Ross blamed their "bad" gift as the reason their Super wouldn't fix their heater. The joke of course was that the super LOVED the heart-felt-ness of the gift.

Baking some yummy treats show that you took time out of your life to put love and care into the gift. Put them in a cool reusable container or tin or basket, again with those nice cloth napkins. Baking doesn't have to be a big bad chore; make it fun and involve the family too. Warm up the chilly home! There are all kinds of benefits! You can control the ingredients, in case anyone has allergies. You can go to the farmers' market to get local ingredients. (That's a two-fer!) For those people that just love cookies, and maybe do not have the time or wherewithal to make them themselves, this is a GREAT gift.

They don't have to be cookies. Do cupcakes. Do banana bread, zucchini bread, whatever. Make it your signature. Make it something the recipients look forward to! There is a lot to be said for the homemade gifts. It's time we got back to things like that. Let's make this mean something again. It's what the holidays are about, or used to be anyway. Let's turn it around, and make life a little greener at the same time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Gifts: Day 2

The cool part about green gifts is you can get really creative. Your family and friends are cool like 'dat, and already have water bottles. What then? Well, step it up a bit! Let's go for the whole serving package in today's gift idea!
Create a green basket full of things for in the kitchen, at work, or on the go. Start with a great re-used basket from a thrift store or your garage or closet, or find a beautiful fair trade, locally crafted basket. (Green gifts are also all about local and fair trade!) You can even dress up a box if you are feeling creative. Then, fill it with cool reusable products that encourage your gift recipient to use fewer disposable products. My best and favorite product for this is To-Go Ware, utensils made from bamboo that come in a great carrying case. With these in the desk at work or tossed in the purse or backpack, we can avoid using plastic forks and spoons and knives completely! They make a great gift even by themselves. Learn more about them here: Add some bamboo plates and bowls. Toss in a cool coffee to-go cup for the hot beverage fans. Find pretty cloth napkins to dress the whole thing up a little more.
Voila! A nice addition would be some organic wine or some homemade treats, or fair-trade chocolate. I'd like to say it needs to be bigger and more complicated than that, but it really is this easy.
Let's bring back a little more of the meaning to the holiday. Use this time to care, and to help the Earth, and to help your loved ones help the Earth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy December...Let's DO This, #1

Ahhh Winter. Holidays. Fireplaces and sweaters and snuggling. December brings a lot of good feelings. It's the last month of the year and it might seem like it's a better time to wind down, but I believe it is a great time to START some things.

The First Day of Winter, the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year, and while there is a whole lotta winter to go after December 21st, this day marks a time of rebirth. So I say, let's start some great new practices and traditions this holiday season to take into the new year!

A wonderful way to start is right along the vein of the holiday: give gifts. But this year, give GREEN gifts. In the spirit of the 12 Days of (insert holiday here), I'll be giving 12 examples of great green gifts. I'm starting early because, well, you'll need time to shop!

Think not that this is some way to be pushy about green, and forcing your ideals on to your gift recipients. No, no. Instead, think of it as an extra special gift. After all, a green gift means you really put some thought into it. It means you care enough about that person to help them help the Earth! (Rationalize it however you want.) Really, though, what's better: a tie or some knick-knack, or something that can be used again and again? A practical object IS a good gift. And, when you think about it, you realize that the receiver of the gift will think of you every time they use what you have given them. Isn't that the point of a gift? Would you like to be remembered as the person who gave them that really cool and useful thing, or the idiot who gave them that stupid useless thing that either sat around gathering dust or got re-gifted the next year?

So. Where to begin? Let's start with the best and most obvious: water bottles. We all know someone (or lots of someones) who are still in the SUPpy (Single-Use Plastic) habit. Why are they still using those? Maybe they just haven't stopped to get one of their own. There are so many styles and varieties out there that you can find the perfect one for everyone on your list. Personalize them. Get enough for the whole family. Get them for co-workers. Get insulated ones for those who love their hot tea. (My fave even has a little strainer in it and can hold hot or cold.)

It's early enough to order them from some great sites (see below). If you think a bottle is not enough of a gift, then get them a filter for their faucet too. Again, if these seem far too practical to be "cool" gifts, then just remember that you are helping your friends and family be greener, and that is an ULTIMATE gift!

Here's a wonderful site that sells bottles and all kinds of cool things, including a filter that goes IN the water bottle, so they can be filled from the garden hose if need be! Look around the entire site; it's pretty cool. And tell Mark the Good Green Witch sent you!

This site has wonderful green gifts, including a GREAT bottle: Marilyn is the best!

Here's a site I can mention again and again in the gift department, a one-stop shop online: Ricky and Steven, you guys rule!

Those are a few of the people I really really like. You can also check out local green stores and other green companies. Heck, for last minute, you can find these things in your local Starbucks or grocery store! Just DO IT!

Be ahead of the curve. Be the person who start4ed it in your family. BE the change. Green gifts are the way to go. And don't worry, I'll have plenty more suggestions in the upcoming days!