Trying to Go Green on This White, White Christmas

When I was imagining this month’s post last month (because I do think about these posts in advance — I just don’t actually write them then), I had beautiful visions of a post detailing all the eco-friendly ways I’ve embraced this holiday season. Fabric in lieu of wrapping paper; no plastic toys; everything bought locally from sustainable farms, or grown in my very own kitchen herb garden.

Ah, the dreams we dream.

I have friends who do that kind of stuff every year. Their presents always look beautiful, and the treats are (often) tasty, and the blog posts they write always provide all the details you need to have a completely sustainable, eco-friendly holiday. And every year, I swear to myself that next year I will do something that crafty, that inspired. This year, I was determined to make it happen.

But as it turns out, when I try to wrap a present in fabric (without using tape, mind you) it doesn’t come out looking like an elegant holiday treat so much as something I was too cheap to buy wrapping paper for and thus chose to stuff in a used pillowcase. And I definitely could have gotten my two-year-old cousin something other than the Little People race track I chose, but… I folded. I don’t even know why. Ben was right there saying, “How about this stuffed animal? Or this wooden train set?” But instead, my brain went into overload while being assaulted by the overly cheerful Christmas music and the aisles and aisles of colorful gadgetry at Reny’s, and I freaked out and got the Little People race track. Which I’m sure little Jackson will probably love — but, really, I could have done so much better.

As for buying locally… I did actually support a lot of local businesses this year. I’m living in Brunswick now, and the natural foods store — Morning Glory — has an awesome loose-leaf tea selection and lovely teapots, so that was the perfect gift for someone on my list, while their locally made candles and lotions were ideal for another friend. I got gift baskets from Goodwill rather than buying them new (thus also eliminating the need for a lot of wrapping); I brought all my own shopping bags rather than using the ones in the stores.

The cookies I baked for our family Christmas party are vegan (and they taste really good, so it’s not like I’m being unnecessarily cruel to my meat-eating comrades). I found a couple of cool T-shirts for my nieces from The Mountain — “The Greenest T-shirt Company in the U.S.A.” — with some of the proceeds going to Best Friends Animal Society. Ben is not a fan of these shirts, but I think the girls will like them.Another gift for the nieces that has become an annual tradition are symbolic adoptions of endangered animals from the World Wildlife Foundation. At this point, the girls have an entire zoo of stuffed animals they’ve gotten as gifts for these WWF donations. I love that it’s given them some awareness of the plight of wild things around the world, while simultaneously making them feel as though they’re actually doing something to make a difference. And, yeah, I know: It would be better if WWF spent all of the money on their mission rather than using part of it to send people stuff, but I can have that conversation with my nieces in a few years. Right now, they like the stuffed animals; I like knowing I’m at least trying to make an impact with my gifts.

BUT… I also bought a lot of stuff from Amazon. I drove my Honda Element (Ben calls it the Elephant) all over hell and gone tracking down the perfect gift, which means I did more than my part to contribute to gas emissions this season. I bought a few things that were packaged in plastic, which means I’m adding more waste to the planet. My kitchen herb garden is still more a garden in my mind than one that actually, you know, produces stuff, so that didn’t turn out to be a viable gift for friends or family.

The bottom line? Yes, there are a handful of people in this world who manage to be completely earth-friendly during the holiday season. Those people may nor may not actually be human, and will always make the rest of us look bad. But if we can all go just a little out of our way in an effort to be kind to the planet while we’re out shopping for baubles and hoo-hahs for those special someones in our lives, I think that ultimately counts for something.

What about you? Are there local stores you can recommend to the rest of we weary shoppers this season, or gifts you’ve given that help out a charity you care about? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Jen Blood is author of the USA Today-bestselling Erin Solomon Mysteries, and the newly released K-9 Search and Rescue mystery The Darkest Thread. You can learn more about Jen and her work at 

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8 Responses to Trying to Go Green on This White, White Christmas

  1. Julianne Spreng says:

    Jen: You’re doing FINE!!! The fact that you are even trying to make a difference…makes a difference. Shopping local is important. If we don’t support the smaller shops, they’ll disappear. All we’ll have left are the horrid big box stores full of cheap imported junk. Not only that, but they pave over acres of habitat to put in the monstrosity.

    Remembering to use your shopping bags is a big step. Many have them in their vehicle and forget to take them into the store. My sister has them on the front passenger seat, but often forgets them. Plastic in all forms can cause slow agonizing death to much wildlife. Your choices help.

    Fabric is not necessarily a better wrap than paper. Much fabric is synthetic and growing cotton has a huge environmental impact. The way it’s grown now requires lots of chemical nurturing. If the fabric will not be reused in some way, even to wrap another gift…what have you got?! At least paper can be recycled and made again from recycled material.

    Just remember this mantra. It applies to your whole life.
    Think Big. Start Small. Begin NOW!!!

    And you have…big smile!

    • Jen Blood says:

      Thanks, Julianne — I agree, it’s all about doing what we can. And you’re totally right about the fabric thing, which I realized shortly after beginning this whole venture. We always reuse our wrapping paper anyway, so it makes good sense to just stick with that rather than getting too complicated with things. Thanks for the input!

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Loved your post! Yes — local! I also shop for gifts year ’round at antique shops and flea markets and craft fairs. And keep my eyes open in my own home for pieces of jewelry or family history that I can pass on to my children (and sometimes grandchildren). Memories are great gifts, I firmly believe!

    Have a wonderful Christmas – green or almost-green!

  3. Kate Flora says:

    Love this post, Jen, and some of your great gift choices.

    I think next year we want to assemble our collective faves and share them right after Thanksgiving. If we can remember to do this!

    I always plan on using fabric and often forget. And forget my shopping bags far more often than I remember them. I try to think: Small steps.

    Don’t feel too badly about the plastic train set. I have a little people train set my boys played with that still comes out for other little ones to enjoy. I think a 30-year+ run means it was good value and it isn’t cluttering up some landfill.

    And would you share the vegan cookie recipe?

  4. Skye says:

    This is wonderful, and I do think you are making a valuable contribution; even by writing this.

  5. Monica says:

    Sure, this sounds like an advert from a Vacationland marketing firm but… give experiences, not things. When my kids were little, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ they were receiving, I went to the store and bought a package of invitations that looked like admittance tickets. Each kid got 5 with a specific thing I would do with them: go fishing, go on a picnic, things like that.

    Yes, for a few days I was the cheap mom. Then they decided to use their coupons to go skiing and to the donut shop and then they got it.

    Now they are in their 40’s and I’ve given them year long memberships for state and national parks, tickets to live theater, tickets to one of those locked room mysteries, etc.

    There’s nothing they have to find room for in the house, no trash, no wrong sizes. And they have fun as a family.

    Merry Christmas!

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