Last Minute Green Holiday Gifts

I have to admit I’m freaking out a little bit that there are only 10 days until Christmas! I felt like I had so much time and suddenly Christmas is right around the corner! I think I’m pretty set on gifts for the kids, but still need to mail a few packages and figure out what I’m getting for my husband.

For those of you who are still wracking your brains, check out the suggestions below. You’re sure to find a green idea or two to help you on your merry way. :)

Last Minute Green Gifts

Now for some Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Do you have tips for other last minute green gifts or eco-friendly wrapping ideas? Please share them in the comments. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Photo via Perspicacious.org: Paper bag gift wrap

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Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like Lead Poisoning

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind?

Family? Friends? Christmas trees? Decorations? Presents? Candles? Food? Mistletoe?
How about lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other toxins?

In Danika Carter’s post All I want for Christmas is Lead-free Decorations, she points out that most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC (vinyl) and the many problems associated with PVC.

• It off gasses
• contains phthalates
• breaks down in heat and sun
• contains lead which becomes lead dust and spreads throughout your home
• Doesn’t biodegrade and is difficult to recycle

This is one of the reasons we are opting for a real tree this year (which we are finally going to get tomorrow – can’t wait!). :)

Danika also points out that reports have shown that “the cords on most holiday lights contain lead at higher levels that what is allowable for toys.” A Michigan-based group called The Ecology Center tested 68 light sets and found four out of five of those sets contained detectable levels of lead.

While most people don’t stick electrical cords in their mouths, they do touch them with their hands (and then touch food or their faces?) and all of the twisting and turning the cords while wrapping them around the tree or — in my house, the banister — can lead to lead dust in the air.

Lead is a potent poison that can affect individuals at any age. Children with developing bodies are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

To avoid possible lead contamination, it is advised that people either wear gloves when handling holiday lights or wash their hands afterward. I’m not sure what you can do about the possible lead dust in the air other than avoid strands of lights that contain lead in the first place. Or just don’t decorate at all. Yeah, bah humbug and all of that. :P

Actually, Alicia from The Soft Landing had some tips for safer holiday lights. “As we discussed in a recent article, locating PVC-free and lead-free light strings proved impossible, so your best bet is to focused on tracking down RoHS compliant products. We found Environmental Lights to be an invaluable source of well-researched options and SAFbaby also confirmed that Ikea offers safer light strands as well.”

Also, word to the wise… Definitely don’t let your 6-month-old sit on the floor surrounded by lights (which she grabs with her hot little hands) so you can take some cute pictures. Uh, yeah, I totally did that when Ava was a baby. Crappy parent award right here! Holla! Ugh.

There is more information available from HealthyStuff.org about the Lead and Holiday Lights studies.

Are you concerned about lead exposure from your tree and/or lights? What changes might you try to make to avoid it?

I’m rethinking my decision to wrap our banister in lights and garland this year. Sure it looks pretty, but when my kids touch it nearly every time they come down the stairs, that ain’t cool, people. That ain’t cool. Maybe I’ll have them wear gloves in the house? Or not. :P Next year I think we will only have lights on the tree in the house. Any other lighted decorations will be outside only. At least that will minimize our exposure a bit. I’m also trying to have my kids wash their hands whenever they handle any lights and cords this year (which is so much better than throwing them into a pile of lights, don’t you think?). ;) Live and learn and then learn some more.

While we’re on the subject of the holidays and learning, don’t forget that you can give your Facebook friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too! No worries about lead with One Million Acts of Green. Just good clean, green fun. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Think Before You Buy

I recently mentioned my frustration at the toy advertisements arriving in the mail just in time for the holidays. You’d think with all the buzz about living eco-friendly and green, the big toy makers might catch on and stop making single function, zero imagination toys. But no. The Target catalog is lined with page after page of toys that do just one thing, are made of plastic and generally need batteries. There’s a mysterious absence of toys that encourage creativity.


Dance Star Mickey – He walks, talks and dances (and entertains your kid for about 5 minutes before he’s tossed into a corner)

Why sell toys that kids can use for several different purposes when you can sell one that does X, one that does Y and one that does Z? The more focused the toy, the more toys they can sell and the more money they can make! Nevermind that simple toys are better for children. They can’t be mass produced and where’s the money in that? And who cares about all of the trash the toys that are played with for a week or two until they break or kids tire of them produce?!

I’m not saying “down with all plastic toys.” All I ask is before you shop for toys or presents in general this holiday season, think before you buy. That’s all. Vote with your dollars.

Another way to make a difference this holiday season is by participating in Give The Gift of Green through One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. There are several cute e-cards with various Acts of Green on them that you send to your friends on Facebook. I just sent one to Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green pledging to turn off my computer when I’m not using it. The card adds, “That’s only 14 minutes per day, but it’s a start.” Ain’t that the truth?! It takes just a minute and helps spread the green message. It’s fun, easy and for a good cause. :)

If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green.

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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How Low Can You(r) (Thermostat) Go?

I don’t know about you, but where I live in Colorado it’s already gotten cold enough at night to warrant turning on the furnace. At least some people in this house think so. ;)

Every year I try to resist turning on the heat for as long as possible. You can often hear me staying things like, “Put on a sweater!” or “Wear your wool socks,” but between trying to motivate my kids to get dressed in the morning when it’s freezing in the house and the fact that we had a super-wowee uber energy efficient furnace installed this summer (not to mention listening to my husband complain that I won’t win any award for refusing to turn on the heat), I caved and turned it on about two weeks ago.

It’s funny because one thing I liked to complain about as a kid was how cold my Dad kept our house. I was always trying to nudge the thermostat up a degree or two and hoping he wouldn’t notice. You’d think now that I’m an adult, I’d keep my house as warm as a sauna, but nope. Although my Dad was likely keeping the temperature down to save money, I’m doing it both to save money AND because it’s more energy efficient.

Every year Deanna, AKA the Crunchy Chicken, challenges her readers to a Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. This year is no different. A lot of people are pledging to turn down their thermostat — from a degree or two to 10 or more! A few years ago, I wrote about how we inadvertently took part in the challenge and now I challenge myself and my family every year.

One of the many Acts of Green on One Million Acts of Green is Set Your Thermostat to 18C (65F) or Less in the Winter. I haven’t been able to go that low in my house (at least not during the day) yet, but every degree you can drop truly makes a difference. Per Crunchy Chicken‘s blog, “for each degree set below 68 degrees, energy consumption decreases by about 6 to 8 percent.”

Can you pledge to lower your thermostat by a degree or two or even pledge to go down to 65 degrees (or less!)?

Head over to the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge or get signed up on One Million Acts of Green and pledge to make a difference. It all adds up!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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I believe the children are our future…

Whitney Houston said it best. :)
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

I try to do what I can to set a good example for my kids — whether it means making healthy meals, picking up trash on our hikes, or taking care of my mental health. I believe that despite what they may learn from their friends or in school (although we are home schooling this year — more on that soon, I promise), my husband and I are still their primary teachers.

Although my kids are still young, I think it’s important for them to learn that we need to take care of the earth and that like anything or anyone else, the earth deserves our respect.

As I was digging deeper into the One Million Acts of Green web site the other day, I discovered they have a page dedicated to Education Resources for Teaching about Climate Change.

“When it comes to educating children about the environment, the entire world is a classroom.”

That’s a philosophy I’ve become rather fond of in regard to home schooling too, but like I said, I’ll write more about that another time soon. ;)

They go on to say: “The One Million Acts of Green Program works closely with the National Wildlife Federation, The Climate Project, and its website partner GreenNexxus to provide high-quality, age-appropriate resources for K-12, and beyond.”

There are links to all kind of resources that can be used to teach kids about the environment and climate change. While some of it may be geared moreso to a classroom setting, there’s a lot of information that could be used by parents as well.

This link to the National Wildlife Federation has a bunch of answers to kids’ questions about global warming, including a Parent’s Guide to Talking To Kids About Global Warming.

Another link is to Cool The Earth which is a program similar to One Million Acts of Green, but for kids.

Cool The Earth is a free, ready-to-run program that educates K-8 students and their families about climate change and inspires them to take simple actions to reduce their carbon emissions. The program is successful because it’s fun and empowering for the kids, and their enthusiasm is contagious!

Cool The Earth can be run at any elementary or middle school in the country. If you are interested in learning more, check out how to bring the program to your child’s school.

In addition to the education resources, there’s a lot of other good info available at One Million Acts of Green. If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green. Check out the Facebook app too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

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The Cost of Litter

I’ve written before about my mom’s habit of picking up trash and how it has rubbed off on me. I’m not as agro as she is (yet?), but I try to do my part. I find it’s especially hard to ignore garbage when it’s in the street or on the sidewalk in front of my house or when I’m out somewhere in nature surrounded by beauty and wildlife. I feel compelled to pick up trash in nature. I can’t stand it marring the scenery or the thought of it ending up in an animal’s stomach.

This weekend, the fam and I took a hike to St. Mary’s Glacier outside of Idaho Springs. It was so picturesque, but I ran into a stray piece of garbage here and there (mostly wrappers from “convenient” individually-wrapped foods), which I pocketed and threw into the trash when we returned to the parking lot.

It’s hard to ignore garbage when the view looks like this:

Or this:

Or this:

And especially when I look at these two and then see a piece of trash. It’s really hard to look the other way.

Over at One Million Acts of Green, one of the Acts (under Everyday Habits) is Pick Up Garbage. The carbon dioxide reduction of this particular Act is low, but it’s important for many other reasons.

The Cost of Litter

Garbage littering our neighborhoods, waterways, nature areas and more:

  • Creates an eyesore.
  • Creates potential environmental damage.
  • It can be a health hazard to humans and animals.
  • It’s killing marine life.
  • It’s killing animals in the wild and even in a zoo.
  • And it’s costly to humans in the dollars and cents sense of the word too.
  • In the United States, state governments spends millions of dollars (yes, millions) each year picking up garbage.
  • They also drive millions of miles each year to collect that trash. Think of all of the gas that is used to fuel their trucks!

If we all did our part and picked up after ourselves and others — including our DOGS — (and for the love of God, try to stay away from those “convenient” individually-wrapped foods in the first place) we could make a big impact.

If you complete the Pick Up Garbage Act, you’ll be well on your way to completing 3 Acts of Green which will earn you an entry into the 3 to Green Contest where one very lucky winner will receive a $5,000 spending spree at BuyGreen.com. To enter for your chance to win, just register and complete three acts of green! It’s that easy! And for every additional three acts of green you register, you’ll earn another entry. Not only will you get a chance to win some cool green stuff, you will be doing your part to clean up the Earth. Our children and our children’s children will thank you for it someday.

As we were on our hike, I paused by the lake to gaze out at the water where I saw ripples — first tiny, then bigger, and bigger, and bigger — which made me think of the ripple effect.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. — Scott Adams

Let’s start our own little ripples and see how big they become. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.