Category Archives: Green Gift Ideas

What to do About All the Non Eco Friendly Gifts Your Kids Want

Most children have very long wish lists for Christmas. There are so many ads on television, so many toys discussed with friends, and they want most of them.

Unfortunately, very few toys are made in anything remotely resembling an environmentally friendly manner. How do you deal with the requests for toys that are not eco friendly when you’re trying to raise a green family?

Buy Used

Some classics I find hard to resist, as do many other parents. The good part about some classics is that they’re pretty easy to buy used rather than new.

Legos are a good example. Many of us had them growing up. We may even have some stuffed away in a closet or at a parent’s house.

I love Legos. They encourage creativity, especially the plain block sets. But eco friendly they are not. Too much plastic.

On the plus side, they’re durable. I’d expect a set to be handed down many times. That helps a lot on the environmental side of things.

Any toy that has been out for a few months you have the chance to buy used. No guarantees, of course, and you have to look at how much they’ve been damaged by previous owners. But in terms of finding popular toys in an eco friendly manner, that’s as close as you’re going to get.

Trade Around

This method takes a lot of trust. You can trade with family and friends who also have kids for the toys your kids want. You may even be able to arrange a toy rotation for those toys that they want returned. Agree that a toy will spend a month, a week, whatever length of time at each house.

If this works, it also teaches sharing. It’s harder to do with really possessive kids. Children who accept the trades can enjoy the wider selection of toys they can play with without costing you a lot of money.

Have a plan for when toys break. Will they be replaced? What if one child is more careful and the other damages a lot of toys? You do not want to ruin a friendship over a few toys.

Encourage Handmedowns

Anyone you know with kids older than yours you can encourage to give your children handmedown toys. Discuss the ones your kids want and see if they’re available. This makes gift giving within the family much cheaper if all the cousins are within a good age range.

Discover Eco Friendly Alternatives

This is hard to do, as many toys really do not have an eco friendly alternative, or at least not one most children will accept. Very few toys, relatively speaking, are made from plastic. There are more limits to what you can build with most wooden toys… just try to match something like K’Nex with a wooden or eco friendly equivalent!

When it’s possible, go for it.

Get the Toy Requested

We’re human, we parents. Sometimes just because it will delight our children, most of us will choose the toy requested, regardless of environmental considerations.

It’s best if you avoid this until you’ve gone through the other options. But when your child really wants a particular item, and you’ve been eco friendly in every way you can manage, it may not be completely unreasonable to give in. Just consider what you’ll do with the toys when they break or aren’t played with anymore. Hopefully you’ll be able to find them a good home to be played with again.

A Green Christmas Can be a Budget Friendly Christmas

There are many wonderful things about Christmas, but there are also many stressful things about it. Many people complain about the expense of buying so many gifts for family and friends. It adds up fast, not to mention how bad the whole mess can be for the environment. Isn’t there a better way?

There can be. You’ll have to change how you think of Christmas presents and be ready for people to be surprised at the kinds of gifts you give.

Give Time

For the people in your life who need just a little more company or someone to talk to, make their gift be your time. Promise to be there for them. Promise more visits where you’ll just sit and talk. Promise help running errands. Find things they need your help with, and offer your time.

This is great for grandparents and others who don’t need so many things in their homes, but often would like more company or help. It helps to create wonderful memories for all concerned and is a great example for the children in the family.

It’s also a good choice for your spouse. Give certificates promising a massage, a night out and so on.

Give Experiences

The gift of experiences is great for kids. Give fewer things for presents and give more promises of things done together. The kids may be skeptical at first, but if you choose right, they’ll enjoy the experiences tremendously.

Hiking is a good choice for those who like to do things outdoors. You may have to drive to a good place for hiking, but you can have a lot of fun together on the hike.

Taking kids to free activities is another good choice. Stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s often have free crafts for kids on Saturdays. Check the websites of your local stores and see what’s available.

Go to the Library

If your child loves books, more trips to the library is a great choice that won’t cost you anything. It’s great fun exploring all the library has to offer.

Many libraries have special activities you can attend. There may be story hour for preschoolers, for example. My local library also has a Toddler Boot Camp, which is a mom and toddler exercise time. Check your library’s website to discover the activities available to you.

The main thing to remember is that you can give more than just things for the holidays. Your time is far more valuable to those you care about than the things you can give them. They may not realize it right away, but most truly enjoy it when you give more of your time and focus less on things.

Go Paperless in the Kitchen – Green Gift Ideas

Most families use a lot of paper unnecessarily in the kitchen. That’s what makes it such a great target for going paperless. There are simple cloth alternatives for most paper used in the kitchen.

It’s also a nice gift idea for any time of year. You can give attractive cloth alternatives and help someone you care about use less paper in their kitchen or even go completely paper free.

This works best as a gift for someone who wants to be more eco friendly. If they just don’t care, these supplies will probably be tossed in with the rest of the cloth supplies they don’t use much. Cloth napkins will be used only rarely. Cloth towels pretty much reserved for drying dishes or hands.

You can provide a few types of cloth for use in the kitchen:

Cloth Napkins

Give a large selection of plain cloth napkins for daily use. A few different colors can be nice. Organic cotton is always a good choice.

For those you know enjoy entertaining, some nicer cloth napkins are a good addition. Look for attractive designs, maybe as a part of a set with a tablecloth or that can easily be paired with one.

Towels for Cleaning

An essential part of the paperless kitchen are the towels used in cleaning. Most people will go through a few of these a day.

I suggest some microfiber towels for their absorbency and cleaning ability. I have a few, and they’re great. Go for quality, as cheaper ones don’t really last as well. They can clean up spills, wipe countertops, dry hands, dry dishes, and more.

Towel Rack or Hooks

The one challenge with using cloth so much more is that you need a place to dry your damp cloth napkins or towels before throwing them in the laundry. You don’t want them to get moldy.

To make this gift complete, include a small towel rack or hooks that damp towels can be hung on to dry. These can be hung under the sink, in the laundry room, or wherever the washing machine is.

“As Seen On TV” vs. Things That Already Exist

I was kind of amused this year seeing some relatives get so excited about receiving Snuggies for Christmas. Those certainly have taken off! But looking at them made me think of how much they and certain other “As Seen On TV” products resemble things you can get elsewhere in better quality or even already have in your home.

The Snuggie

Take a good look at the Snuggie Fleece Blanket. It’s essentially a backwards, extra long bathrobe without a belt. Flip your bathrobe around, put on some socks or throw a blanket over your legs, and who needs a Snuggie?

Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter

Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planters aren’t bad, actually, but you can make your own pretty easily. My husband did one a few years back by drilling holes into a plastic bucket. Others make them out of the reusable shopping bags you can buy at the grocery store for $0.99.

Tomatoes certainly don’t mind growing upside down, but if you have the space they’re generally quite happy growing in the usual manner too. Most years we end up doing a little of each, but I think we’ve had the best results growing them right side up.

Aqua Globes

I’ll certainly agree that Aqua Globes work and look nice, but if looks don’t matter, try reusing instead.

You can reuse plastic gallon jugs to do this same work. They aren’t pretty, but they do the job and you aren’t sending the plastic off to the trash or to be recycled after just one use. I like the gallon jugs most because they tend to be sturdier and hold a lot of water.

You can use smaller plastic bottles, but some deform pretty easily and just don’t seem to do the job so well for us.

Aqua Globes are best if you really need to be concerned about appearances. It happens. If you’re using them in the front of the house, for example, your neighbors will probably be happier with the look of Aqua Globes over plastic bottles in the garden. But do remember that glass breaks.

Zorbeez Cloths

The reviews on Amazon on Zorbeez Cloths look pretty bad. That pretty much says it all. They’re supposed to be super absorbent but the consensus appears to be that they aren’t remotely absorbent.

If you want great cleaning cloths, there’s a reason why microfiber has become so popular. Get some good quality microfiber cleaning cloths and you will be much happier.

MagneScribe Pens

Oh, how easily you could replace the MagneScribe Pen with… oh, I don’t know, a regular pen? Are they really so complex to use? And do you really want a pen as a pendant around your neck? Most times sitting on the desk or in the junk drawer will suffice.

Handy Gourmet Vegetable Peeling Gloves

These are just a laugh. To use the Handy Gourmet Vegetable Peeling Gloves you have to first cook the vegetables a few minutes, then allow to cool, then start rubbing off the peels.

Hmm… that old vegetable peeler in the drawer is looking better and better, isn’t it? Throw it in the dishwasher when you’re done and it gets cleaned with all the other dishes. Throw the peels into the compost and they aren’t a waste. Life’s so much simpler.

Pancake Puffs

I mention the Pancake Puffs pan because my kids want one so very badly.

In reality, it’s nothing more than a renamed Aebleskiver pan. If you really want to try this, buy an Aebleskiver Pan instead so you can get something of better quality. If you really need the extras such as the injector you can find those too. Recipes you should be able to find online.

Buying an Aebleskiver pan instead of a Pancake Puffs pan won’t save you money unless you luck into one in an antique shop or thrift shop, but you’ll have the pleasure of denying that hideous “As Seen On TV” industry a little bit of money.

Of course there are many more of these products out there. “As Seen On TV” products are a great example of creating a need where there was none before. Consumerism at its worst for the most part.

Do you have a favorite? Favorite to hate?

Slime – Another Easy Last Minute Gift to Make for Your Kids

I just posted about making play dough as a Christmas gift for your kids. You can do the same with the ingredients to make slime. I will warn you, however… slime is NOT nontoxic, at least not with the recipe I have.

2 cups water
1-1/4 cup Elmer’s glue
food coloring
1/3 cup hot water
1 tsp Borax

Thoroughly mix 2 cups water with glue. Add food coloring as desired.

Mix hot water and Borax. Stir into glue and water mixture, removing slime as necessary. You may have to make an extra batch of the hot water and Borax to make the entire mixture into slime.

The slime will be rather tacky at first. The more you work it, the less tacky it will be.

To give this as a gift I would suggest giving the kids just the glue and tell them it’s for a special project. Packaging up the rest of the ingredients just wouldn’t work for me.

Slime is rather messy of course, but if you clean up promptly it’s not likely to stain. At least it hasn’t for me.  Don’t let it near carpet as it’s not so easy to clean up there.  Tile floors are a much better choice for this one.

As with the play dough, keep it sealed up and it will last a while. Your patience with whatever mess they create may be another matter.