Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Green Gifting: Eco-Friendly Gift Giving & Receiving Ideas

By Nira Sheppard, DC EcoWomen board member

The holiday season is upon us and for me, it’s a mixed bag. I love the dazzling lights, Christmas songs, and spending time with family eating delicious comfort food (pass the gravy please). At the same time, the expectation of giving and receiving gifts makes me dizzy and anxious with questions like, who do I give gifts to during the holidays? What should I give them? How much should I spend? What if they give me a gift and I don’t have one for them? The list goes on and on. If you have these questions too, unfortunately, I have no answers, but I can give you some pointers for making gifting eco-friendly and even pocket-friendly.

Be proactive. “A gift desired is a gift used” – Me. Does it make you feel uncomfortable and a bit guilty to get a gift you’re less than thrilled with receiving? Yes, it’s the thought that counts but all you can think about is, what to do with it (hmm, that’s not my style)? You’re not alone. Take control of your gift destiny and be proactive. Make it known what you would like from those who will likely give you a gift. Be specific or give them a category (good chocolate and natural body butters are winners for me). Also ask them what their preferences are, so you know what to get them. Help them out with questions, such as what type of books/clothes/snacks would they like and where can I get them? Once you know what they like, go the extra mile and try to get a version of the item that hits one or more of these categories: ethical, environmentally sustainable, local, and produced or sold by a woman-owned and/or minority-owned business.

Make a list. Not for Santa, unless you want to do that too (a child lives in all of us). You and those in your gift pool can use Giftster or MyRegistry.com to create a gift list to share with each other. Too much work? Cash or consumables, like wine, chocolate, coffee/tea, or candles should do the trick (please see aforementioned categories in the above paragraph). If cash is not your taste and you know this person doesn’t want or need a thing, gift them a charitable donation. I don’t recommend a gift card unless you’re pretty sure the person will use it because $1 billion in gift cards go unused every year.  

Decline extra packaging. After Christmas, the trash is filled with gift packaging – the packaging that comes with the gift and the extra that we add on top to make it pretty. To reduce waste, there are several options. Decline the gift box and wrapping service at the retailer. Reuse a jewelry box or gift bag you already have and then reuse it for next year. Repurpose it if it is no longer suitable for gift giving and then recycle it when no longer usable. If you don’t care, don’t package gifts at all.

Recycle. Say you decided to reduce packaging, but others did not? Collect the wrapping paper and packaging and recycle them yourself or ask the host about recycling what you collected. You can also take unwanted gift boxes and bags for future gift giving (I haven’t bought a gift bag in years).

Embrace gift-wrapping alternatives. Maybe you’re the person who thrills in watching your loved ones open your beautifully, perfectly, and carefully wrapped gifts. No need to deprive yourself. Here are six eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives and 15 more ideas that look chic, not cheap.

Gift experiences. An idea that is becoming more popular is to forego physical gifts for experiences, free or purchased. For example, you can gift someone movie, concert, festival, sporting event or museum tickets, yoga classes, a wine or beer tasting, etc. You can make the experience a shared memory by doing these things with them. You can perform a song or write a poem for them or give them a homemade gift (it may not technically be an experience for them, but they will appreciate your effort). You can also simply spend time together, perhaps while taking a walk or hike, at a cafe, or eating a home-cooked meal or cookies you made. If they trust you around their child(ren), you can gift them time in another way, free babysitting hours (this may be their best gift ever). Here are some more experience gifting options.

I hope these ideas have been helpful to you. Whatever you decide to do regarding the business of giving and receiving gifts, I hope your holiday season is full of love, warmth, and good cheer. Happy holidays!

Nira Sheppard is a member of DC EcoWomen’s professional development committee. She holds a BA from Soka University of America, an MA in Global Environment Policy from American University and a LEED Green Associate credential. Nira is passionate about recycling, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and waste reduction and is seeking opportunities in environmental sustainability and sustainable development. Find her on LinkedIn

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Have Yourself a Green Ramadan!

By DC EcoWomen Board Member Lina Khan

As the month of Ramadan begins this week for Muslims, many of us are preparing both physically and mentally for fasting. Muslims believe that during this month in the 600s C.E., the holy text of the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Even before the text was revealed, he often spent time in meditation and reflection. In the present day, Muslims do the same during Ramadan, and fast from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours.

Since Ramadan is a time for inner reflection and self-improvement, its personal impact is unique to the individual. But on a broader level, fasting during Ramadan is intended to help one learn self-control and let her/his spiritual nature grow stronger. From the thirst and hunger, fasting is also meant to foster empathy for those who don’t get enough to eat, and Ramadan is a critical time for giving to charity.

For me, personally, Ramadan is a chance to try not to get so wrapped up in work and the daily grind, and to improve on my weaknesses (such as…my temper) and become a more calm and self-aware person. This is challenging every year, but I like to think I’m veerry slooowly getting better at it. This year, fasting will be particularly trying with the heat, so I’ll get good practice at bettering my temperament hopefully.

Recently I learned about another goal during Ramadan, which is to strive to make Ramadan, and other facets of our spiritual lives, more ‘green’. Speaking logistically, Ramadan entails a pre-sunrise meal (suhr) and post-sunset meal (iftar). And speaking from experience, this is the most enjoyable in the company of others. People often turn iftars into potlucks after work, and there can be a fair amount of plastic ware and containers that get thrown away afterwards.

A sunset meal: veggie pot pie with homemade biscuits

A few years ago, I attended a ‘Zero Trash Iftar’ hosted by Green Muslims, an organization based in the DC area that seeks to build environmental leadership, awareness, and action within Muslim communities in America. At the iftar, everyone brought their dishes in re-usable containers, and their own eating utensils and reusable napkins (and so begins the revival of handkerchiefs! Maybe). I met cool people and it felt good to break my fast on wholesome food and consciously avoid piling up on trash. I’ve since learned more about the eco-conscious movement taking root within the American Muslim community, and wanted to share some other actions I’d like to take toward the green Ramadan goal.

Here are some suggestions from a green multifaith webinar:

  • When washing up for the 5 daily prayers, or even when having a shower, try to limit how much water is used.
  • Switch from plastic water bottles and Styrofoam to reusable water bottles and containers—speaking for myself, this can be tough when getting leftovers from a restaurant, so I’d need to devise a plan.
  • After a long day of fasting, try not to take more food than one can comfortably digest, to avoid wasting food. Also, try consuming more fruits and vegetables than meat. Since I have been eating vegetarian for awhile now, I hope to keep that up.

I’ve concluded that these actions will entail, for myself, going for more homemade meals for suhr and iftar. So, I’m hoping to implement some of my trial dishes this Ramadan and that these will keep me full and healthy this month.

Steel cut oats with maple syrup and pecans