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Re: [greenyes] Alternative Holiday gift-giving approaches

Very timely! I was just dotting the i's and crossing the t's on our monthly e-newsletter. We've included an article on this very topic. Here's what we decided on:

THINK ABOUT PACKAGING BEFORE YOU BUY. Purchase gifts with little or no packaging, or packaging that is recyclable.

CONSIDER PACKAGING ALTERNATIVES. Try popcorn (enclose a note saying birds can eat it), biodegradable starch peanuts, previously used packing peanuts or bubble wrap, or crumpled newspapers. The UPS store (formerly Mail Boxes Etc.) accepts donations of used Styrofoam peanuts, so if you receive them with a gift, donate them instead of throwing them out.

MAKE FUNNY OR UNIQUE PACKAGES FROM SALVAGED MATERIALS. Visit yard sales, flea markets or your attic for old tins, hat boxes, fabric and other containers and materials that can be reused.

MAKE THE WRAPPING PART OF THE GIFT. Try wrapping in scarves, a set of pillowcases or cloth napkins or tea towels. Use an oven mitt to wrap kitchen utensils and gadgets.


Lessons for music, art, dance, or a favorite sport
A membership to an art museum, gym, or the zoo
Tickets to a sporting event, movie theater, play, or concert
Season passes to a local amusement park or a state park
A gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant or day spa
A donation to the recipient's favorite charity
A newspaper or magazine subscription

MAKE YOUR OWN WRAPPING PAPER: Use salvaged brown paper bags that the kids can decorate with stamps, paints, or crayons.
Tie with natural raffia.
Wrap in pages from a magazine, old sheet music or newspaper comics.

Purchase remnant fabric from the fabric store and sew reusable gift bags (see instructions below). Or make reusable wrapping cloth by cutting fabric into squares (with pinking shears). Wrap it around your gift, just as you would with paper, and tie a ribbon around the gift to hold the wrapping in place.

Paper printed with natural inks that do not contain heavy metals.
Paper made in a factory where solvents are prevented from escaping into the air.
Paper made from responsibly harvested wood.
Paper from pure, unbleached pulp or pulp bleached without chlorine.


STEP 1: Decide on the size bag you want to make.

STEP 2: Cut the fabric to twice the desired bag depth and fold in half so the fold forms the bottom of the bag.

STEP 3: Turn the fabric inside out and pin the sides together. Stitch the side seams.

STEP 4: Turn outside in, fold the raw edge along the top of the bag, and hem, either by hand or with a sewing machine. (If fabric does not run, you can finish the ends by cutting with pinking shears.)

STEP 5: Attach a ribbon by cutting a cloth ribbon (at least 12" long) and stitching it to the seam about four or five inches from the top.

To subscribe to our free monthly newsletter, send an email to subscribe@no.address Past newsletters are archived at

Happy Holidays!

Amy Hemmert
Obentec, Inc.


Find out what people are saying about Laptop Lunches at

----- Original Message ----- From: "Gary Liss" <gary@no.address>
To: <greenyes@no.address>
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 1:07 PM
Subject: [greenyes] Alternative Holiday gift-giving approaches

Does anyone have good suggestions for alternate rules for Holiday gift-giving that reduces the commercialism? The following are ones we're considering in our family.

1. avoid needless commercial excess;
2. retain spirit of giving

1. Each person should bring a certain number of gifts agreed upon in advance by all involved (e.g. 3).

2. Gifts should not be labeled who they are to or from.

3. Suggested types of "unbought" gifts:
a. something you already have;
b. something you make; or
c. a promise to perform some service.

4. Wrap gifts? (Not sure if they should be wrapped)

5. Gift exchange
Ideas for how to execute the exchange
a. Auction off the gifts one at a time.
For each gift, we hold it up and anyone interested raises his/her hand.
If multiple people want it, whoever already has fewest items gets it.
For a tie, then the tied people have 1 minute to negotiate.
If they can't decide within a minute, then it's randomly chosen.
Unclaimed items go back into pile; item list repeats until no more gifts.
Use decreasing order of value, so people don't "save their votes"???
b. Same as 5a, except for ties go back into the pile.
c. True auction using $100 monopoly money.
d. Display all items at once, and everyone writes the 5 things they want
What if everyone wants the same stuff, and a bunch goes unclaimed?
e. Barter--some people show their items, and other's trade theirs

6. Special gifts <Save this for future years???>
a. Each person will receive one special gift
b. The family will agree, case-by-case, to an arrangement for each person's special gift. Once someone's special gift is arranged, his/her name should be crossed from a master list of all planning to attend family event.
c. Gifts can be gotten by an individual or a group.
d. Special gifts are labeled who they are to, but not from.

Questions that have come up:

Should this year be experimental???
If experimental, then everyone will still get gifts for everyone else, but
some people will also bring "unbought" gifts for the new exchange.

Do we need to accommodate both the new and the traditional type of
gift-giving at the same event? If so, how do we handle people who bring
individual gifts, but not gifts for the "new" exchange?

Gary Liss
Fax: 916-652-0485

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