Northside SF
Around the House
Have a greener holiday
Use reusable shopping bags as gift wrap for a greener alternative
The holidays can be filled with excess, and it’s easy to overdo by eating, drinking, and spending too much. And if you’re like the Griswalds in the Christmas Vacation movie, maybe you put up too many lighted energy-hogging decorations too. With most of us now concerned about our carbon footprints and watching our money more carefully, here are some suggestions to help make your holidays greener and maybe save a few bucks too.

Far from eco-friendly, holiday wrap is seldom made from 100 percent recycled paper. Even worse many wraps contain foil or foil elements, which cannot be recycled. Recyclable kraft paper from a shopping bag tied with raffia bows makes for a tasteful wrapped gift. Look for gift wrap, bags and tags that are made from recycled materials and are chlorine free. Newspaper works as gift wrap too. For children’s gifts, use the Sunday comics; for sports lovers, use the sports pages.

Make the wrapping part of the gift. Reusable shopping bags make an ideal gift wrap, which is then reusable as well as stylish. Simply put the gift inside, and tie the handles to make a bow. You can decorate with a beautiful bulb or some jingly bells to dress up even more. Or let the contents, such as gourmet snacks, overflow from the bag.

Instead of buying boxes, save coffee tins and shoe boxes and wrap them. These work well for baked holiday treats too.

Try using unshelled peanuts or uncooked pasta noodles instead of bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts to cushion fragile items when shipping.

Swapping traditional holiday lights with newer LED versions is a simple way to reduce energy consumption during the holidays. LED lights can be more expensive than standard lights, but the energy savings more than make up for the cost over the lifetime of the strand. There are LED light strands on the market now that look exactly like the traditional mini-lights.

Attach lights to timers for even more efficiency. A wide range of outdoor and indoor timers make it easy to find one that suits your needs. Power strips are another energy-saving option because they allow power to be shut off from a power adapter.

And don’t forget to recycle your spent holiday lights.

Mother Nature can be the best source for wonderful ideas and inspiration. A walk on the beach or a hike in the woods can produce sprigs of berries, branches, pinecones, and seashells. Seasonal fruits and vegetables like apples, pumpkins and squash, make stunning centerpieces and fireplace accents.

Give a gift made of recycled materials. Green Toys are durable and locally made in the East Bay from recycled plastic milk jugs. Or give a gift to inspire someone to live a more sustainable lifestyle, like a travel coffee mug or reusable water bottle. S’well bottles work for both hot and cold beverages and are quite stylish – there’s even a larger size that holds a bottle of wine. Or you might consider a Soda Stream Fizz, which turns tap water into sparkling – these are quite popular now.

See you around the house!
Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware and can be reached at

March 2012
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