Tag Archives: christmas gifts

My sustainable (very fun) Christmas gift list!

Is it almost Christmas already? I can’t believe how fast we went from Easter brunch to jingle bells! Time flies.

I am super excited about the holiday season this year; we’re going home to cold and dark Scandinavia to celebrate with our family. For the first time in seven years we’ll wake up to snow (hopefully, or at least frost!) instead of palm trees. Yay. Yes, yes, I know we’re adding more carbon to this year’s footprint but it was what we felt we wanted to do with our 2-year-old and I’m sure it won’t become a habit to travel twice a year!

Anyway, I am excited about the season and I decided to share some sustainable, support-something-good gift ideas here on the blog! Gifts that fit everyone, no matter gender identification or age.

A handmade mug to hold that hot, winter drink

I got two beautiful mugs earlier this year from RBD pottery. At the time, their studio was based in Alaska but has since moved to Michigan (shorter shipping for most :)).

Commonly, made in USA mugs are just painted or printed here, not really made here. You’ll see made in China pottery showing off a local artists art work. What’s cool with RBD is that everything – the ceramic too – is handmade with love, making each mug 100% unique and local. PS. They’ve got planters too! $30-60

made in usa pottery mug handmade

Virtual Animal adoption

I love the kind act of “adopting” an endangered animal for Christmas as a gift for someone, especially for kids. They’ll get a card to learn more about the animal and a nice picture to keep. Very low consumption yet meaningful and for a great cause. $25

Glass drinking straw

For that person who always wants to zip their drink through a straw but appreciates our need to reduce plastic; I can’t think of a better gift than a reusable straw!

Mine was actually a gift from a colleague who got it in Seattle for me. The one I have is handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, cute, sustainable and durable. It comes with a protective sleeve, so you can keep it in the car or in a bag, as well as with a tiny cleaning brush. $8-20

reusable glass straw made in usa

Bar soap

The vast majority of folks bathe or shower several times a week, so a nice smelling bar of soap will be appreciated by most!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to find locally made, no plastic wrap soaps at farmers markets, Whole Foods, online, general stores or anywhere they sell beauty/body products. Watch out for goat milk based soaps tho; there’s no need to add the carbon of raising goats just so we can get a good clean! Vegan, paraben-free soaps are a plenty. $10-15

Home-baked crisp bread

I just made a batch of my allergen friendly crisp bread last week and took with me as a hostess gift at a Thanksgiving party. It was super appreciated and everyone loved it (recipe here!). You don’t have to make this particular treat, of course, but stick something home-baked in tin jar and voila you’ve got a perfect gift! $10+time.

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Classic gift of socks

Am I a suuuper lame blogger if I put SOCKS on my Christmas list? Maybe. I apologize.

There are no better socks out there in the world than Smartwool hiking socks though. They’re knitted in USA (most styles at least), have absolutely superb quality and will keep everyone you love so warm all winter.

I love wearing mine even in the office (inside my sneakers or booties!) so I am not slightly cold all day (I have yet to hear from anyone who works in an office building that the temperature isn’t either too hot or too cold all the time. Side note, but hence the need for good socks). Of course for hiking they’re great too, and everyone takes walks. Right? Available lots of places but REI is a co-op I love to support so I get mine there. $20-29

Over the years I’ve posted a few Christmas lists on the blog so you’ll find more ideas here and here for how to totally rock it this year. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear what you’re giving your loved ones this year.

PS. I read that in Sweden, this years “it gift” is second hand clothes! That is pretty awesome I think; very sustainable indeed. I hope it’s true (?). Anything second hand makes for an eco-friendly gift of course :)

Wishing everyone much love and a great start to the last month of 2018!

Your guide to excellent, sustainable, made right (here) gifts – from companies against bigotry

Despite all the negativity surrounding us lately, a joyous season is upon us. I don’t know about you, but if we are to fiercely fight for what’s right in the coming four years, I think we need a nice break and to sit back and relax this Christmas, knowing that Obama and Biden are still in office.

Last week I shared an important post about where to donate your dollars this Holiday Season to make an impact and spread some eco-love. This week, I’d like to focus on promoting some ethical, eco-friendly brands, who just like us, openly supported a Hillary Clinton presidency and stand against hate and racism. These brands will help you give excellent, sustainable, made right (here) gifts to yourself or others worthy of a treat.

1. Bead & Reel

Bead & Reel is an ethical online boutique offering eco-friendly, cruelty free (vegan), sweatshop free fashion. Fair trade, organic, recycled material, female run brands – whatever you feel strongly about, they’ve got it. They’re good at listing where everything is made, so you can shop local if you want to too.

2. National Geographic

Can I just give a shout out to National Geographic? With their fantastic (yet frightening) environmental series Years of Living Dangerously and the new Leo movie Before the Flood, they sent a clear message about voting for the climate this election. A magazine subscription might not be the most zero waste gift, but one I’d sure like anyway! (Or go ahead an purchase Years of Living Dangerously on I-tunes!)

3. Rackk and Ruin

Rackk and Ruin is a Berlington, VT (Bernie’s home base) jewelry maker focusing on using natural materials like leather, feathers and metal in her handmade pieces. She’s offering safety pin gold earrings right now as well, so you can show off your anti-Trump feelings.

4. Skin Deep Naturals

You might remember Skin Deep Naturals from when I got my reusable, organic cotton make-up remover rounds earlier this year. However, there’s more to the brand than that. It’s a natural skin care line using safe ingredients straight from nature, without any synthetic ingredients or preservatives. Most ingredients are organic and fair trade certified and all are hate-free.

Cat stripes Cotton tote bag
My made in USA, cotton tote-bag from Seltzer Goods

5. Seltzer Goods

Seltzer Goods are so much fun! They’re definitely on the “nice to have” scale of things, but one deserves a fun and colorful treat now and then. Tote bags, magnets, pens and more, with most everything being made right here. I bought myself a striped cat tote from them earlier this year, which is made in USA, 100% cotton and so cute.

6. Tabii Just

This zero waste, feminist designer just launched her fall collection, and it’s looking classy. Tabii Just is based and made in New York. I scored a gorgeous scarf made from scrap fabric this fall and I couldn’t be happier with it (maybe it’s the cute ball hem!?)

7. The Little Market

The Little Market is an online shop where customers can purchase handmade, fair trade products made by (female) artisans around the world. Every purchase, whether it be a blanket, accessory, candle, baby beanie or little apron, generates meaningful income for the artisans and their families. Lauren Conrad is one of the founders.

8. Tradlands

I just modeled my new shirt from Tradlands in my last post here on the blog! They’re all about perfectly crafted women’s shirts, keeping it small business and always made in USA with love (not hate). Check out their soft flannels or business button-ups.

State optical glasses tradlands shirt
My Made in USA, cotton flannel from Tradlands

Please readers, if you know of any great eco-brands, who openly and proudly voted against hate and bigotry, please share them with me in the comments! I sure can’t keep track of them all by myself ;)

In addition to voting with your dollars and buying what’s right, you should also avoid shopping at places that did support a Trump presidency (it’s a search away). Funny enough, the sustainable community is very unlikely to have done so, whereas, places like Hobby Lobby (Chinese junk store) and Chick-file (mass produced chicken) probably did.

If you’re more into zero waste gifts, check out my other posts on gifting and donating.

‘Tis the season to be GIVING

And not some random notebook or scented candle.

It’s the season for giving to non-profit organizations. To trustworthy human rights advocates and local community initiatives, but more importantly to the groups and organizations fighting for our planet.

This year, maybe more so than ever, we have to step up and vote with our dollars. With the political climate and the uncertainties 2017 brings, this is the time to look at how and where you can find a few dollars per month to give to non-government organizations fighting for YOUR cause. Be creative; skipping just two take-out lattes per month equals 10 dollars for donations.

Now, how can one incorporate a charity gift into an actual Christmas present?

Below are just a few ideas I have on how to do it. All ways are grand when it comes to supporting a greener planet (or other cause) and giving meaningful gifts.

1. Make an agreement with your family

Instead of purchasing physical gifts to each other, make a pledge that all adults donate for example 100 dollars to an environmental organization of their choice. Don’t know any? Here are some I like.

Stand for Trees

This organization’s focus is to plant, restore and protect forests and forest communities in areas subject to deforestation and big money interests. The cool thing about their site is that you know the amount of carbon you prevent per donation, and you don’t have to give them personal details, like your address. I donate to them every year to offset my carbon footprint. (Link)

Rainforest Action Network

They fight for all types of environmental justice, such as saving rain forests, campaigning against fracking, standing up to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They recently took part in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Before The Flood (which I recommend you see if you haven’t). They run a lot of petitions too, where all you donate is your name. Yes, free impact! I suggest you follow them on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any. (Link)

National Park Foundation

Is there anything more amazing about America than her National Parks? I think not. America without them would be a disaster. Speaking of which, make a plan to go visit some next year, and while there, support the park by shopping for merchandise at the park shops. We like to bring home a refrigerator magnet from each park; made in USA and package free. (Link)

Sierra Club

If anyone can fight Trump it’s them. These guys stand up to corruption, take on big oil, and produce some kick-butt informative videos. They’re the most influential environmental organization we have. (Recently they actually sued the EPA for having too lax regulations in the Ohio valley, causing air pollution in Washington State.) Sierra Club is the organization that all environmental thugs hate (and fear) the most. That’s why we love them. (Link)

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2. Make a personal gift card

Did out that paper, that glue stick and those old stickers you never used. Make a little card of your own and inform the recipient that you’ve donated X amount of dollars to an organization in their name (include the emailed tax receipt of the donation if you feel the need). Pick an organization you feel strongly about and encourage the recipient to make monthly donations to the same. (Monthly, steady donations make the most impact even if low.)

3. Pick something from a gift shop

Now this is my least favorite since it’s bordering on “unnecessary consumption”, but I realize some people prefer to give an actual item (especially to the young Christmas guests). If so, you might as well support a cause with your purchase!

World Wildlife Foundation (WWF)

Adopt a species and get an information kit, or build a bucket of fluffy, endangered animals for a little one. Your symbolic adoption supports WWF’s global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats. (Link)

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)

Wolves are cool! Kids think wolves are cool, right? Adopt a wolf and pick something in the gift shop to wrap. WCC’s mission is to promote wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. (Link)

Standing Rock T-shirt (#NoDAPL)

Get THE statement t-shirt of the season: supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock! The initiative is started by actress Shailene Woodley and all proceeds benefit the people protesting and fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tees are made by Bella and Canvas (known for fair and ethical production) and 100% cotton (eco-friendly!). Bernie already got his. Watch out for t-shirt scams on Amazon. (Link)

Not so hard to pick something, is it?! If for some reason, you’re not keen on any of these, search and you shall find!

‘Tis the season to make good choices. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

** Share this post tomorrow on the Global day of Giving 11/29/16 using hashtag GivingTuesday. **

How to be an eco-friendly holiday joy spreader this season

The Holiday Season is one slippery slope of OVER CONSUMPTION. Decorations, cookies, candles and (ugly) sweaters calling from all aisles to all easily persuaded shoppers.

Of course the beauty of it all is that you don’t have to say no to holiday spirit and fun just because you say no to consuming ridiculous amounts of carbon emissions, sweatshop made goods, corn syrup, meat, artificial colors and gimmicks this season.

In order to kick off the season right, here are four holiday posts I have written previously about mastering this time of year in an eco-friendly, low consumption, sustainable way.

1. How to not be a consumption slave on Black Friday

Can I please try to persuade you to NOT shop this year? Look around you, you don’t need anything! Some food for thought in this post.

2. How to master the art of stress free gifting

For kids or adults, follow these easy steps for immediate success (and saving dough!)

3. How to decorate an eco-friendly Christmas tree

Read all about what’s better; a real or a artificial tree and how we did it in 2014 to keep it budget friendly, eco-friendly and not made in China.

4. How to master gift wrapping the eco way

Kind of self-explanatory, but here’s the key; reusable wrapping: good, disposable wrapping: bad. If you just remember that line, you’ll be fine.

Despite me being a bit of a Grinch, I think we will be celebrating this year. We do have four days off work, and with the belly growing I don’t think a trip would be a smart way to spend the holidays. I’ll be better off on the couch drinking spiced (non alcoholic) wine (Glogg) and eating ginger snaps.

glogg

I’ll be posting some great ideas for environmentally friendly and ethical gifts in the coming weeks as well. If you decide to shop for Christmas, I know you want to do it right.

But first, if you’re not staying in or opting to spend the weekend outside, remember this Saturday is Shop Small Saturday. A day to focus on supporting locally owned, small, neighborhood businesses. Vote with your dollars – shop items made right (here).

Happy Thanksgiving! :)

Just opt out of it – and then it’s already a wrap

I already posted the ultimate eco-friendly Christmas gift list last year, so I won’t attempt to outdo myself, but I’d like to write some more about gift wrapping.

Growing up, my mom would always try to save the wrapping paper from Christmas and birthday gifts. We had a habit of opening gifts real gently to “keep” the surprise  as long as possible, by undoing the string, the tape and unfolding the paper slowly, which meant that most of the time there was decent looking paper to save. I used to think “Is paper so expensive that we must wrap other people’s gifts in previously used, wrinkled paper? Why is mom saving it?” But I get it now.

Throwing it away would have been wasteful. Money wise, even if we’re only talking dimes, and planet wise. (Love you mom!)

I just got a Barbie moped! Wrapped in previously used paper? Maybe!
I just got a Barbie moped! Wrapped in previously used paper? Most likely!

As an adult I try to limit packaging and wrapping paper as much as possible. I’m so lucky; my husband is not the most grandiose wrapper and always opts for using something he finds in the recycling bin (newspaper, old box, outdated map), and never any tape. Yes, his gifts are easy to spot at a birthday party and normally trigger quite a few smiles. With a signature style like that – who needs a card?

Now, just in case someone reading this really wants to wrap their gifts up nicely for Christmas, and is not sold on my husband’s recycling trend (!?), here’s another idea; fabric bags! I recently saw that there are fabric gift bags all over town now. Specifically, I saw a bunch (imported, unfortunately, from India) at the Container Store.

There’s something about fabric that tells people that the bag is not a disposable item and should not be thrown away. I think these bags look really cute and if you are handy, they’d be super easy to make yourself! Two sides, stitching and drawstring are basically all you need. I found this tutorial on PositivelySplendid.com – get sewing! (Now, don’t go buying a made in China sewing gauge…)

I have checked more than a few tags – all paper gift bags are made in China (dyes, waste, plastics, import!). They create landfill waste (methane!) and they cost a lot of money (loss!). What’s the reason to buy them again?

How are you all dealing with the Christmas wrapping waste?

bags

Want to read last year’s fantastic (*wink wink*) Christmas gift guide? Click HERE.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree… when disposable beats reusable

It’s that time of year again when we all start talking about Christmas. Christmas plans, Christmas wishes, Christmas time off from work, Christmas weight gain, Christmas spending…

My husband and I don’t do the gifting every year and we probably have less than 10 Christmas decorations, but I actually love this holiday! For me, it’s all about cooking, listening to music, being all around cozy and drinking spiced hot wine (“Glögg”). Favorite Christmas album? Destiny’s Child’s 8 days of Christmas. Sassy harmonies combined with jingle bells – sign me up! (And give hubby a pair of ear-plugs.)

It's the real deal.
It’s the real deal.

Now, let’s talk Christmas trees!

Did you know that the most eco-friendly choice is to buy a real tree each year, instead of buying and reusing an artificial one?

A Swedish nonprofit I follow, the Nature Protection Organization, published an article about it last year, which is where I first read about it.

Before your go “hurray” and head on over to Wal-Mart’s parking lot, there are a few constraints to consider. You need to make sure your tree was grown sustainably, preferably organic, and comes from a nearby, healthy forest (or farm). You’ll probably have most luck shopping with a small vendor or straight from the owner to assure that you’re getting a happy tree.

The tree should then be cut and composted, used for heating (if you have a high efficiency furnace) or collected by the municipality for use as heating material or be composted, large scale, when the season is over.

Unless someone in the family is allergic, a real tree is also a safe choice for your home.

Taking a closer look at the option, an artificial tree, there are several (obvious) reasons as to why this type of tree is worse for the environment than the real one. First, the artificial, plastic Christmas tree was transported here from far away; most often from China, may have been manufactured un-ethically and generally contains chemicals.  It comes wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard box with ink on it (waste!). And when it’s time to get a new one, should it get old and worn, it’s not recyclable and ends up in landfill (waste!). Even if you use it for as long as 10 years, a real, locally grown, sustainable tree, should still be better.

There’s an exception; if you already own a plastic tree, of course, using that one again is the best choice!

We had guests for Christmas last year so we said yes to the mess of decorating our house (a little). We went with a real tree, obviously, which we picked out at the local farmers’ market. We decorated it with homemade paper decorations, popcorn string, Mardi Gras beads, the few ornaments we already had, and the main attraction was a colorful string of lights from Taiwan. I’ve never been into the multi-colored lights but it was the ONLY box of lights I could find not made in China! See, this challenge is forever pushing my boundaries of style.

This year, it may just be the two of us for Christmas and we haven’t decided if we’re having a tree or not, yet. If we are, we will do a style-repeat from last year since it was such a looker!

What do you think? Artificial or real?

Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful "Christmas weather" #Houston
Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful “Christmas weather” #Houston
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.

My Swedish (speaking) readers can read the article HERE.

And when it’s hot and ready, then dreidel I shall drink

There’s nothing like enjoying hot spiced wine, with a loved one (or two) on a cold December night. The smell of cinnamon, cardamom and red wine fills the house and creates that Christmas feeling. Add a few ginger snaps, music and a fire place; it’s perfection.

This year I actually got myself a little present (say what!) – 6 oz. tumbler glasses, which we will use only for these cozy winter nights. Made in USA, of course, with tiny blue winter leaves. Or winter leaves is what I thought it was until I read the label… “Dreidel tumbler” it said. Oh, what the heck, I like dreidels!

And I love it when Christmas decorations are in unexpected colors, like blue. Where I bought these cuties? All-time favorite, also known as the land of inspiration (and empty wallets); Crate and Barrel. At only a few dollars each, for once I didn’t break the bank.

Happy Holidays!

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Two tips for a stress free (eco-friendly) Christmas

You’ve already gotten gifts for your loved ones. Something meaningful, sustainably made, eco-friendly and local that you know they will love (right?). Now comes the stress of gifting for all the other friends and family members whom you, sort of, “should” be giving something. Let’s solve that problem real quick.

Here are my top tips for nailing it, this Christmas:

1. Give the gift of alcohol. Never has a bottle disappointed an adult. We all live somewhat close to a winery, brewery or distillery right? And if the person who gets it doesn’t drink, I assure you it will be re-gifted very soon. Packaging is all recyclable and most liquor stores accept corks back too. Cheers to shopping local!

2. Most kids won’t remember what you got them. So skip the gift. Most will have too many presents to begin with; some won’t even have time to open them all. Feel bad? Tell the parents you’re trying to reduce consumption and if that doesn’t provide an aha-moment, give them a gift according to tip 1, so they can drown their sorrows.

ran
Texas wine anyone? Yeah, I thought so.

And there’s a bonus tip:

3. Please don’t buy gift bags. Wrap gifts in stuff you have at home, like newspaper. Gift bags often contain plastic pieces and non FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved paper. And they ARE made in China. (Pollution! Dangerous dyes! Waste! Import!) Plus, you can’t be sure that the bag will be reused or recycled amidst all that Christmas stress.

So easy. So eco. Happy Holidays y’all!