My 2017 began in the similar sustainable ways that my 2016 ended. By seeking alternatives for everyday occurrences! Let’s recap the end of 2016 by jumping back a few weeks to just before the Christmas holiday.
For Christmas 2016 I decided to be more minimalistic with my decorations (not that my decorations had ever been out of control in past years). However, it can be an overwhelming task to haul several bins of decorations out of storage just for a few weeks of displaying.
So to avoid that overwhelming task this year, I opted out of using my 30+ year old artificial tree and constructed one out of cardboard – which I will reuse each year. The huge cardboard box was headed to the dumpster, so I was happy to rescue it. Besides the cardboard is much easier to store too! My new tree was pleasantly simplistic. Along with a strand of artificial garland (which we’ve had for years) I placed on the mantle as a decorative accent with lights to round out the room décor.
I never felt as though I was missing out by using any of these minimal decorations. It is so much nicer to only have a few options, instead of an overwhelming amount of them. One of my upcoming projects is to sort through all of my Christmas décor and keep only what is really loved and will be used in the future. This is how it should always be, but with consumerism being so strong in America, many people have bought a lot more than they truly need to exist.
As I posted on Instagram, I used a few pine branches that were cut down by my neighbor. Since he planned to throw them out, I asked if I could have them for a project. He happily tossed them over the fence and so I began creating grave covers for my loved ones in a sustainable way.
Using the pine branches that haven’t been painted or modified (sealed) will make sure they can be composted properly. The only man-made material I used were a few bows, which I had on hand already and two plastic zip-ties per cover. Next year, I plan to make grave covers again, since it was so easy to do and cost me nothing. I plan to use up the bows each year until they are gone and then figure out an alternative that is compostable to replace them. I will also use twine or more durable rope to attach the branches to the wooden weight instead of zip-ties. Overall it was a great sustainable project and helped to save me at least $40!
Gifts and Dinner
I received a few gifts from loved ones this year, even though I stated that I needed nothing. Luckily my family understands my interest in being sustainable and gifted me items that were second-hand. I was so thrilled that they took the time to search around and find items that were practical and useful to me from the thrift store. The gifts were even wrapped in reusable cloths too!
This year I decided to host Christmas dinner. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to make as much of the meal as possible from bulk ingredients. The shining star of the meal are the cloverleaf rolls from Shutterbean, which I made from all bulk items. This was my first time making rolls from scratch and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make! I will certainly be making these rolls from bulk items in the future.
About two weeks after the Christmas in December that we all know and love, there is another Christmas celebration known as Orthodox Christmas. It’s also known as Greek, Ukrainian or Russian Orthodox Christmas. I’ve been celebrating it every year with a friend’s family and is exciting way to have Christmas twice a year.
Since many people toss their Christmas tree to the curb from the day after Christmas to around New Year’s Eve. It was a prime opportunity for my friend’s family to pickup a second-hand tree for their celebration. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard they did this. As I hoped it was because of my sustainable ways rubbing off on them over the years. I’m proud they found a way to give this tree more use! This year it is creatively decorated with vintage Star Wars action figures in honor of Carrie Fisher. Who says you have to do Christmas traditionally? Give the holidays your own style!
Sustainable Christmas Gifts
I gave and received a sustainable gift during Orthodox Christmas, which was such a joy to do. Found in my basement was an unfinished wooden plaque, so I thought I would give it a purpose by making it into a gift. I saw some beautiful string art while at a festival during my Smoky Mountain trip and decided to recreate my friend’s vehicle with that art method. Using the wood stains and polyurethane I already had on hand, I completed the wood. To create the art, I only had to purchase nails and a bit of string to use. I gifted a great handmade item with minimal impact to the environment; the unused materials were returned back to the store so others could use them.
I thought the gift I gave was pretty rad. Well, I received an even more awesome gift in return. My friend built me a passive iPhone speaker from reclaimed wood pallets. I had mentioned months ago how awesome they were since they amplified sound without power. Well that seems to have been something he picked up on and decided to build one instead of buying me one. I love how the nails and nail holes were intentionally left in the wood. They serve as a reminder of the wood’s former life as a useful pallet. I especially enjoyed the stand in the rear of the speaker since it was a piece of wood that was cut from the front hole of the speaker.
Creatively constructed gifts that are made with intention are far better than a pile of gifts under the tree that were mass-produced and a product of consumerism. I’m glad I can add my sustainable ways to the holidays as well!