Chances are that your New Year’s goals include getting things under control, whether it be your body, work or home. The holidays leave many of us with too much stuff and too little space to store it. But what do to with all the old stuff without wasting it and filling up landfills? De-cluttering is a great way to get your household organized while putting your resolutions into action. Here are our favorite ways to de-clutter your home the eco-friendly way:
ORGANIZE & STORE HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
• The wrap-around-your-arm strategy for bundling Christmas lights is a recipe for a tangle tantrum next year, but with the help of an egg carton you can easily keep them tangle-free. Using the egg dividers as guides, wrap the lights around the inside and bottom of the carton then close and secure with a rubber band.
• Toilet paper, paper towel and wrapping paper rolls are the perfect size for storing small- to medium-sized ornaments and serve as good protection, too. Once the roll is full, just cover the ends with a piece of tape and your ornaments will stay safe and organized until next year.
• Use any boxes from opened presents for storing decorations, rather than buying new baskets or containers. If you’re feeling crafty, used Mod Podge to decorate the boxes with all that used wrapping paper—it’s surprisingly resilient when glued on.
CLEAN OUT THE KITCHEN
• Despite your best efforts to consume everything before it goes bad, there’s probably something lurking in the fridge that shouldn’t be. Checking dates is especially easy at the start of a new year: everything dated 2011 and earlier should go—but that doesn’t mean you have to toss it. Compost what you can, then rinse and recycle the containers.
• If you have craft supplies, beauty products or other knickknacks in need of organization, clean and save old glass jars.
• Check your pantry for any empty boxes or out-of-date canned goods. Anything going out of date in the near future should be placed at the front of the pantry so it gets eaten sooner. There are lots of ways to reuse old tin cans, such as garden planters, pencil holders or scoops for pet food—but recycle anything you can’t find a use for.
ORGANIZE THE LITTLE STUFF
• Craft rooms, offices and other hobby areas are easily cluttered, but there are some easy ways to combat the mess. Use old glass jars (such as that moldy pasta sauce at the back of the fridge) for small items such as buttons or beads. Shoe boxes are great for organizing papers in the office, and can easily be stacked and stored as needed.
• Reuse the out-of-date tin cans from your pantry: large cans work well for holding pencils in the office or crayons in the playroom, and smaller tuna-sized cans work well for erasers, clips and other office supplies.
STOP THE MAIL MADNESS!
• Sorting mail isn’t fun, but it’s best done sooner than later. Junk mail clutters a room quickly, so try using 2 small repurposed containers where you normally place your mail: one for important items and one for junk mail to be recycled. Gift boxes, clementine crates and shoe boxes work well for this and can be decorated or painted to match any décor.
• Opt-out of any catalogs or subscriptions you don’t read or could read electronically instead.
• Choose paperless bills—companies make it easy to switch to online banking and electronic statements. Not only is it easy and convenient to pay your bills online, but you’ll be doing the trees a favor too. –Holly Young
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Over the years, Christmas has transformed from the “Season of Giving” to a season devoted to conspicuous consumption. We’re sick of the manipulative toy ads, the Black Friday sales, the mall madness, so years ago we simply decided to opt out. We still love Christmas and giving, but we want to celebrate the season in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way. Here are our Top 5 Tips for a Green Christmas season.
• BUY GREEN– There’s been a lot of debate about whether real or fake Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly, but it turns out that keeping it real is the best option. Fake trees consume significant energy and use petroleum-based products in their manufacturing process, plus they’re usually made in China and have carbon emissions associated with transport. Real trees are more sustainable, are typically grown on farms that replant 3 trees for every one cut, and can be recycled pretty much anywhere nowadays.
• TAKE THE GREEN LIGHT– Studies have found that LED Christmas lights, which use semiconducting material rather than incandescent filaments, are 90% more energy efficient than traditional lights. According to a Department of Energy study, if everyone in the United States replaced their old light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved– enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!
• MAKE IT GREEN– Few things have brought our family closer together around the holidays than making our own Christmas presents. Not only does it show people you put time and effort into their gifts, but it saves money as well! In the last few years, we’ve made homemade soaps, photo calendars, Christmas candles, baked goodies (recipes to come), mosaic tile picture frames, beaded jewelry and concrete stepping stones. It’s the one gift you can be sure people will never want to return, and it takes a lot less time and effort than you might think!
• WRAP IT GREEN– My family used to make fun of my grandmother for saving all the bows and wrapping paper, then reusing it the next year, not to mention her proclivity for using the Sunday comics to wrap our birthday presents. Turns out Granny Love was WAY ahead of her time! Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage during the holidays, including wrapping paper and packaging. But wrapping paper/ribbons can be reused with a little ironing, and consider non-traditional approaches, like wrapping a gift inside another gift (i.e. a scarf or colorful sweater). Of course it goes without saying that anything you DO throw out should be recycled!
• GIVE GREEN- Let’s face it: Most people in the Western world have WAY more stuff than they need. This year, consider giving some of that Christmas cash to the less fortunate via international non-profit charities such as Heifer International, Water.org, or Oxfam International. For the price of a gift your friends/family members could do without, you can provide people in developing nations with food, water, shelter and other tools they need to live a healthier, happier life. And, at Christmastime, isn’t that the greatest gift of all? –Bret Love
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Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions, and we’re looking forward to picking out a beautiful North Carolina-grown Fir next weekend. But our eager anticipation was mixed with concern: Is getting a real vs fake tree better for the environment?
The answer surprised us: If you want to have an eco-friendly, green Christmas: Keep It Real!
People turn to fake plastic trees for a number of reasons, including cost, convenience and concerns over the environmental impact of cutting down a new tree each year. But experts insist that artificial trees do more damage to the environment: They’re manufactured with metal and PVC (a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic); are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable; and around 85% are imported from China, which increases their overall carbon footprint.
Real Christmas trees (of which 33 million are sold in the U.S. each year), on the other hand, are a renewable resource with a 93% “treecycling” rate; absorb approximately a ton of CO2 PER TREE over the course of their lifetime (wow!); produce enough oxygen per acre for 18 people a day; and are sustainable, with 1-3 seedlings planted for each tree harvested. Not to mention the fact that the industry employs over 100,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Of course, if you’re truly dedicated to going green (and your local climate will allow it), the most eco-friendly option is a living, potted tree, which can be brought indoors for around 10 days, then planted outside. With Christmas trees, it truly is better to keep it real! –Bret Love
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The season for all things pumpkin has arrived, and many of us in America will make (or at least eat ) a pumpkin pie this autumn. But what to do with all the leftover pumpkin after Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed? Did you know that pumpkin can be used to make all-natural beauty products your skin will love just as much as your stomach? For about the same price as a commercial bottle of body scrub (around $10), you can make an effective, deliciously scented natural scrub that has no harmful parabens or preservatives in about 45 minutes. In addition to making a great personal beauty product, jarred pumpkin body scrub decorated with a ribbon and personalized tag also makes a great homemade holiday present.
INGREDIENTS: 1 small pumpkin • 1 cup brown sugar • ¼ cup organic coconut oil (other oils can be used, but coconut oil is thicker than others at room temperature) • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spices (I combined cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger)
DIRECTIONS: Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (but save them to roast!). • Roast pumpkin for 30 minutes or until tender. Canned pumpkin puree can also be used, but I prefer fresh. • Scoop the pumpkin puree into a bowl and add the sugar, oil and spices. • Mix well and jar. You now have a great exfoliant that smells just like pumpkin pie! –Holly Young
Home gardening is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more and more about the dangers of genetically modified foods. But did you know that many commercial fertilizers are made from ammonia, which is extracted from natural gas, or that the extraction process releases carbon dioxide? Even worse, nitrates in these fertilizers can harm humans and marine mammals by seeping into groundwater, and ultimately deplete the soil’s nutrients.
Fortunately, most of us have the basic ingredients needed to make homemade fertilizer sitting around the house, including dried coffee grounds and unused vegetable matter, which can be used to create compost. But one of the best tricks for all-natural homemade fertilizer is to use ground up egg shells, which consist primarily of calcium carbonate (or, in fertilizer terms, lime). In addition to the calcium carbonate, egg shells also contain small amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and other nutrients.
To use them, simply save your egg shells by storing them in a pot in a dry place such as the oven. Once they have dried out, blend the shells into a powder, which can then be sprinkled on your lawn, garden or potted plants. If your plants are frequented by snails, jagged shell pieces can be scattered in a border around your plants to ward off hungry snails. Soon, you won’t just be making your garden grow, you’ll be making it greener as well! –Holly Young
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