First, try to buy your gifts from local family-owned stores and businesses. When you buy from a national chain, you’re helping to pay an executive’s bonus. When you buy from your neighbor, you’re helping them feed their kids, pay their rent, and you’re keeping local business alive.
Given that many of us live in rural settings, we have the choice of having a Christmas tree inside our home, or we can decorate a suitable tree outside on our property. If you use outside decorations, consider stringing cranberries and popcorn to attract and feed the local birds, and you can easily enjoy the fun of bird watching from inside by the fire.
With either an indoor or outdoor tree, if you haven’t already, switch to LED light strings. The LED lights burn very cool, use less than 10% of the power than the old incandescent variety, last for many years, and the frustration of trying to find the one burned out lamp is gone forever. In fact, they use so little power you can buy solar LED strings that charge during the day and come on automatically at night. Solar lights like these are perfect if you choose to decorate an outdoor tree.
If you have an indoor tree, consider some of these great ways to reuse and recycle the tree after the holidays. Take the tree outdoors and hang bird feeders and suet cages to turn the tree into a wild bird feeding station.
After the tree has seasoned outdoors, chop the tree into firewood, or chip it into mulch. Use the leftover greenery for winter wreaths, or to decorate planters. A whole tree provides shelter for birds and animals in the garden or over a pond. And use the tree branch for coat hooks.
You can also cut the trunk into thin slices and use these in many crafts. You can make:
- a garden border edge (use wood slices or branches and tree trunks, cut into short blocks)
- garden path stepping stones (but this really only works with a very large tree)
- a decorative wreath (hollow out the middle and decorate the round edges)
- garden signs (burn a letter on each wood slice or if you’re really handy, cut the slices into letters)
- coasters (use butcher block varnish to give them a thick coating)
- a clock (you can buy clockworks and hands at any hobby store)
- a decorative snowman (pick a small, medium and large slice, paint them white and glue them together)
You can also turn the best Christmas cards into fun projects:
- cut off the back of the card and paste in a blank card to reuse it and resend it
- cut off the back of the card and use the front as a postcard, but make sure it fits postcard regulation size or between 3.5 inches and 4.5 inches in height (measured vertically, perpendicular to address) and must be between 5 and 6 inches in width
- create gift tags for next years gifts.
- create bookmarks and laminate them to make them last longer
- create placemats by cutting out images and sayings and putting them between contact paper or laminate them
- make a collage out of your favorite images and messages and add to a scrapbook
- frame your favorite cards to create art for gifts
- cut to the size of an index card and write favorite holiday recipes on the back—use this for any cookie gifts you make and give away
- for photo Christmas cards, punch holes in the cards, buy some metal rings and create a ringed album
With gift wrap, think about using cloth gift bags with colorful tissue. The person receiving the gift bag will often re-use the bag to give a gift to someone next year, so the bag is a gift that keeps on giving and saving paper and reducing waste.
If you end up with torn-up wrapping paper, consider making bows out of it, or wrapping the paper around ornaments to give them a fresh new look.