Holiday How-To, Green Edition

The Holidays can be a tricky time of year to navigate while staying green and not going over-budget. Here at 5 Minutes for Going Green we’re here to help you think outside the box this gift-giving season. We want to help keep you and your family green this holiday season, while also keeping more green in your pocketbooks, too. Keep reading for our customized How-To Holiday Guide.

(Keep in mind, too, that nearly all of these How-To tips are not holiday-centric and can themselves be recycled for birthdays, anniversaries, group social events, and just day-to-day green living.)

How To…

Wrap Recycled:

  • My new favorite recycled wrapping trend that I’ve seen suggested and modeled everywhere from Etsy to Martha Stewart Living is wrapping with maps and pages from atlases and other travel-related paperie. It’s a great way to customize a gift, trick someone into thinking you bought them two tickets to Amsterdam (though we are not responsible for the potential post-unwrapping let-down in that scenario if all they find in the Holland-covered box is a new toothbrush), or just add a unique design to the outside of a gift-laden box.
  • Another green method of recycling while wrapping? Magazine pages. The options (and topics) are literally endless, and even if you don’t have magazines at home, I’m sure you have friends and family members that do, and there is also typically a cornucopia of free publications at local grocery stores and restaurants. Choose children’s publications for the vibrant colors and characters they will surely recognize, and choose something a little more sophisticated for the adults in your gift-giving circle. Have an avid outdoor enthusiast in the family? Wrap their gift in pages from their favorite outdoor magazine.
  • A tried and true method of wrapping holiday and birthday gifts is to use newspaper. Have a subscription? Then you have endless wrapping paper, too. My grandma has wrapped in newspaper all of her life, before it was ever “eco-friendly,” simply because it was simple, inexpensive and when you have four kids and eight grand-kids with gifts underneath the tree, “frugal” becomes a necessity.
  • If you’re anything like me you have random fabric swatches and squares floating around the house, the remnants of projects long-completed or, more accurately, reminders of projects abandoned altogether. Use your extra fabric to wrap gifts and you’re giving the recipient two gifts in one! My sister and I once perpetually recycled a cloth bow for birthday and holiday gift exchanges for two years, before I wrapped a college graduation package with the bow for my eco-savvy cousin and she then re-purposed it into a belt for a dress of hers.
  • Get creative. There are endless options for recycled gift-wrapping including but not limited to: sheet music, driving directions, long lost letters to friends and family members, old birthday and holiday cards. Have an old book that is falling apart at the seams? Use pages from the book to wrap gifts for the literary-minded on your list this year.
  • As a recycling bonus, you can use any left-over paper you both give and receive as padding for packaging throughout the year. Just tear and/or cut it up into more usable pieces and use it to pad the box of home-made cookies you’re planning to send to your Aunt Mabel in Australia.

Go Paperless:

  • Nix the need for paper altogether this year by offering your time and services as gifts to friends and loved ones. Remember when you were a kid and you made your mom the coupon book offering hugs, a night of doing the dishes and one day of mowing the lawn or washing the car? Odds are she still loves all three of those things more than anything you could buy her online or in a store.

Give Back Without Going Broke:

  • is a search engine powered by Yahoo, and they will donate a penny to a charity of your choosing every time you enter a charity’s name and then simultaneously use their search engine. I know a single cent doesn’t seem like a large amount to donate, but imagine if you use the site multiple times a day, every day, for months. The money adds up quickly, and you can check the status of how much each charity you select has raised after each search. They also have an entire page devoted to donation success stories, for a list of the charities who have received the greatest amount of funds from GoodSearch to date.
  • also has a sister site in, where more than 700 companies have committed to donating a percentage of every purchase you make to a charity you designate.
  • Donate your time this winter to a local charity race, a soup kitchen or an animal shelter. For a list of volunteer opportunities in your area visit Volunteer Match.

Light Your Living Space While Saving Energy:

  • The Home Depot has a variety of eco-friendly options for decorating and winterizing your home this year, and their LED holiday lights (to be used for Christmas trees, as well as to decorate any indoor or outdoor space) are a simple way to add some color and flair to your home this year without seeing your electricity bills double in size and cost. Choose from traditional red, green and white colored light strings, or more whimsical bead light garlands, like this one.

Make Your Footprint Smaller And Smaller Still:

  • Make a family or personal commitment this year to learn to compost, to plant a vegetable garden, or to only buy produce from local organic farms. For great composting information, including how to get started, try
  • For a list of local farms and organic grocers visit They also have listings for restaurants that serve food from local organic growers, local Farmers’ Markets, and even locally grown online stores.

Learn More About Having A Great Green Christmas:

Pick up a copy of Green Christmas: How to Have a Joyous, Eco-Friendly Holiday Season by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander, a stocking-stuffer-sized book chock full of ideas for green gift-giving, holiday card alternatives, eco-friendly holiday decorations and more.

Featuring eight chapters centered on how to reduce your carbon footprint this holiday season (and all year round!), it’s the perfect addition to both your personal bookshelves and the bookshelves of your friends and family.

Have your own favorite Green Holiday How-To tips or questions? We’d love to hear them!

An original 5 Minutes for Going Green post. Read more about all things Kerri Anne, including her renewed commitment to green living and her affinity for talking in movie quotes at

4 Responses to Holiday How-To, Green Edition
  1. […] 5 Minutes for Going Green helps us “think outside the box” when gift giving this year to help keep on budget. […]

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    December 12, 2008 | 4:23 pm

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