By Hannah Van Sickle
When I was a kid, come Christmas morning, there was invariably one large box under the tree wrapped in sections of the Sunday comics. Part of me was giddy at the idea of a gift so big wrapping paper wouldn’t cut it; the other part of me would pause for a moment, before ripping the newsprint to shreds, to see if there was a Peanuts comic or–my all time favorite–The Family Circus. Now that I’m the grown-up, I am more fully able to embrace the fun and function of wrapping large gifts in such a fashion. In fact, I have an antique copper boiler next to the woodstove full of old newspapers and I, too, resort to fishing out the comics come December. For those of you looking for easy, practical gifts that don’t add more pollution and waste to the environment–for all intents and purposes “green gifts”–look no further than these ideas to spark your holiday gift-giving (and wrapping) needs.
1.) MYO gift wrap: Perhaps you’ve gone digital for your news and the Sunday comics are no longer in reach? Look no further than a jumbo roll of brown Kraft paper. Natural Kraft paper is unbleached, bio-based, renewable, biodegradable, and compostable; it is also a mono-material that is easily and frequently recycled. Enlist the help of young people to decorate it with handprints or paint splatters and complement your environmentally friendly wrapping paper with jute twine, raffia, colored cotton string, or yarn.
2.) Upcycle old crayons: You know that old tub of broken crayons, that your grandchildren scoff at when they come to visit? They are a hidden goldmine. In under an hour, you can turn them into a brag-worthy stocking stuffer perfect for little hands to clutch. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F and peel the paper wrapper from each crayon; line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Break the crayons into small pieces, and fill each liner with the bits–grouping by shade or mixing to create a rainbow effect. Bake, in the oven, for 10-15 minutes or until the crayons are completely melted. Cool completely on a rack, peel away the paper liners, and reveal brand new crayons just perfect for little, chubby hands to grab
3.) Monogram Magic: Assemble a collection of glass jars (I am particularly fond of Teddiepeanut butter jars, Hosta Hill kraut jars, and Bonne Maman jam jars). Feel free to mix-and-match or create “sets” using multiples of the same product, and personalize in just two easy steps using stencils and etching cream. First, make sure your glassware is clean and dry; next, secure your desired stencil to each glass using masking tape on all four corners. Finally, apply a product like Armour Etch ($12 for 2.2 ounces), according to the manufacturer’s directions. If followed correctly, this will create a permanent, dishwasher-safe design on your drinking glasses. Cheers!
4.) Lantern Luminarias: Set to work with a glass jar, colored tissue paper, and Elmer’s glue are all you will need to make this warm and friendly centerpiece for the holidays. Start with a glass jar of your choice (see suggestions above); after ensuring it is clean and dry, set to work cutting sheets of colored tissue paper into squares that measure 1” x 1”. Once you have a significant stack of squares, use a small paintbrush to “paint” each square with glue, being sure to overlap and layer your tissue paper as you go. Once the jar has been allowed to dry fully, use a length of 20-gauge bare copper wire to create a handle by looping one length around the circumference of the jar’s opening, and another that runs from one edge of the jar up and over to the other. Wrap and twist the wire to secure lengths to one another. Add an inch or two of sand to the bottom, toss in a tea light, and voila! Let there be light.
When in doubt? Bake: You know that co-worker who always raves about your famous molasses crinkles when they appear at the annual office party? Or your brother-in-law who thinks your pecan pie is to die for? Consider baking up a batch of whatever it is you fancy– including a handwritten copy of the recipe on an index card–and presenting as a gift. For added impact, consider including a vintage kitchen tool (gleaned from Goodwill, a yard sale, or your grandmother’s kitchen) to sweeten the deal. Think ceramic pie plate or old-school ice-cream scooper (#60, #40 or #20 work well) to aid the recipient of your gift in replicating the recipe at home while thinking of you.