Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dreaming of a green Christmas

Happy New Year, everyone!

One of my New Year's resolutions last year was to update this blog at least once a week. Looking back over the past year's entries, I see that I met that goal most weeks, but not quite every week. So I'm aiming to be more consistent this year (and also to build a website for my business, finish the downstairs bathroom, and do a better job planning my garden than I did last year).

The main reason I didn't update the blog last week was that I was away for most of it, visiting the in-laws for Christmas. As I observed last year in the old blog, the holiday season is all too often the least ecofrugal time of the year—a period of unbridled consumerism and waste. So I thought that this year, I'd take a moment to focus on the positive and consider the ways in which our holidays actually were ecofrugal. To start with, here's a list of some of the most ecofrugal gifts we got and gave this year:
  • Several secondhand or discounted books. Brian's gifts to me included two volumes of cryptic crosswords, purchased on Amazon.com, which I was delighted with. (Note to Mom: don't worry, I like the one you got me too, and it wasn't a duplicate.) My gift to him was a cookbook called $3 Slow-Cooked Meals, bought from a wonderful discount bookstore in Indianapolis called Half-Price Books (though this particular volume was actually marked down to well below half its original price). This gift was an ecofrugal two-fer: not only did it cost very little, it will also help us be more ecofrugal all year long by making better use of our slow cooker. I've already requested the "Apple-Raisin Pudding Cake" for my birthday in two weeks.
  • Several secondhand toys, mostly from yard sales, for our nieces and nephews. These included a Brio building set for our niece (which her dad also seemed to find entertaining) and this wooden shape sorting clock for our nephew (which we know got played with by someone, because three of the pieces were lost almost immediately. Oh well.)
  • Cow and pig sprinkles from the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market for my brother-in-law's girlfriend Jessica, who loves to bake. Not an extravagant present by any means, but she found them hilarious.
  • A new set of cloth napkins (the ecofrugal alternative to disposable paper) and matching placemats from my in-laws.
  • All manner of homemade goodies. As usual, we gave cherry cordials to my mother-in-law, but because Brian made them himself, he was able to fill up a whole bucket with them for approximately the same amount we'd have spend on a small box from the local chocolatier (and his dad claims that Brian's are better). We also received lots of scrumptious homemade treats, including chocolate truffles from Jessica, a jar of apple butter that Brian's sister and her husband made from their very own apple trees, and an assortment of cookies and candies from our friends in Washington.
  • A soft-sided cooler from Brian's sister and her husband, which she suggested we could take to the farmer's market in hot weather, but which I think will be more useful for stocking up on frozen foodstuffs at Trader Joe's (free-range chicken legs only $2 a pound! Organic veggies same price as the conventional ones at the supermarket! Yee-haw!) and humanely farmed meats at the aforementioned Amish market.
  • A beautiful homemade cribbage board, also from Brian's sister and her husband. I don't think the wood came from their very own apple trees, but it's very cool all the same.
  • And from Brian's dad, several things that weren't officially gifts, but will come in very handy all the same: two more glass-topped canning jars (like those shown in the picture at the top of this page), several heads of garlic (he bought in bulk and offered us the surplus), and a big jar of baker's yeast that he opened before realizing he already had some. We will not need to buy yeast for months, if not years.
Other ecofrugal moves we made over the holidays:
  • Singing carols with Brian's family, a cozy group activity that costs no money and uses no electricity.
  • Making the trip in a fuel-efficient car (38 miles per gallon on the highway! Yee-haw again!). Driving with two people in a car is less carbon-efficient than traveling by inter-city bus or train, according to energy maven Michael Bluejay, but it's cheaper and a lot more practical for us—and it's still way cheaper, as well as more efficient, than flying.
  • Bringing our own food in the car to save on highway fare and reduce the number of stops needed.
  • Reusing wrapping paper and gift bags whenever it was practical.
  • Decking out the house with our usual simple decorations: a single strand of LED lights (much more efficient than the old incandescent type, and less of a fire hazard), trimmed-off evergreen boughs from the tree vendor at Home Depot (who let us take all we wanted for free), and two spools of red-and-silver holiday ribbon from our local dollar store (which we've been reusing for the past several years now and managed to keep in decent shape).
Here's hoping that in 2011, we'll be able to make the holidays even greener, even as global warming—ironically—increases the likelihood that Christmas will be white.
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