7 sustainable Christmas gifts

Christmas should be fun … but it should be fun for our wallets and our planet, too.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste in the U.S. increases more than 25%. This waste consists of uneaten food, shopping bags, packaging, bows, ribbons, and wrapping paper. Not to mention all the trees that we kill to sustain our holiday cheer. But the waste doesn’t stop after New Year’s: our overwhelming consumption of goods during the holidays results in throwing out perfectly good household products and clothes throughout the rest of the year.

So here are seven gifts you can give this Christmas to have a great time and still feel good about yourself:

1.) Buy a living Christmas tree

If you want the look, feel, and smell of a real Christmas tree, then try out a potted, living tree! You can dress it up so it looks just as regal as a traditional, dead tree. Enjoy it in you living room now: plant it and enjoy it in your yard later…

book tree
Photo by Greg Rutty

2.) Make your own “Funky Tree”!

A funky tree is a tree that anyone can make on a low budget just by putting together things you find around the house … like books or egg cartons!

When you use items that would have been thrown out or recycled and make something functional out of them, it’s called Upcycling. It’s the even-better alternative to recycling because by using the objects in their current form (like, say, making a Christmas tree out of egg cartons or plastic tubing) you save the fossil fuels it would have required to convert the objects back into raw materials again. Check out this funky, up cycled tree to the left.

shrek hat

3.) Knit Mom a hat!

What better way to thank the woman who birthed and reared you than to knit her a cute little hat to keep her head warm this Christmas?

The only person who would appreciate a handmade hat as much as your own mom is the mom of a cute little kid if you make him/her one of these children’s Shrek hats!

 

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4.) Give that smelly friend some eco-friendly soap.

Maybe that guy who sits next to you in Psych 101 is just allergic to the harsh chemicals and parabens in most commercial soaps. This holiday season give the gift of hygiene that’s gentle on the skin and the planet. Mountain Laurel Gifts on Court Street is selling Space Cadet soap bars for $6. They feature unique scent-combos like “lavender, rosemary, chamomile,” and “peppermint, orange.” And this local Athens business isn’t messing. Check out the ingredients label on Space Cadet Soaps: nothin’ but nature’s goodness!

 

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5.) Purchase some eco-friendly salve that saves homeless puppies.

Appalachian Earth Sisters makes hand-crafted, organic salve (it’s a natural version of Vaseline) out of organic extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax. They are a “full nonprofit”: all proceeds from the salve sold in Athens, OH goes to Athens County Humane Society to house and care for stray dogs and cats. You can find Appalachian Earth Sisters salve at Import House and Mountain Laurel Gifts on Court Street.

 

IMG_02446.) Paste together a collage.

Pull together some pictures, print them out at Minutemen Press on West Washington, and paste them in a crazy pattern with glue and pasteboard from College Bookstore on Court Street.

To the left is a collage I put together for my Dad one Christmas. Feel free to cut some photos out in rectangles, and cut others on the outline of the subject of the photo — this way you’ll make certain photos pop.

 

 

7.) Give the gift of a warm home by rescuing a stray cat or dog!

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If you or someone you know is in the position to take care of an animal long-term, then go through Athens County Humane Society to rescue a little buddy to curl up by the fire with. And remember, don’t buy an animal through Petland or other businesses that buy from abusive puppy mills. Adopt your friend through your local shelter or humane society.

 

 And one last tip: wrap your gift with newspaper instead of wrapping paper!

Wrapping paper is so early 2000s. Impress all your friends with this creative alternative. Re-use paper such as newspaper and customize the content of the newspaper to your friend!

newspaper-giftwrap
blacklemag.com

 

 

 

National Geographic comes to Ohio University for GIS Day 2015

Dennis Dimick, National Geographic Environment Editor, comes to Ohio University on November 18.
Dennis Dimick, National Geographic Environment Editor, comes to Ohio University on November 18.

If you’re one of my faithful Facebook friends, you’ll know that I’ve had an obsession with National Geographic (and their reputation in the environmental communications field) since high school. So, when I got an email in early October about the keynote speaker for Ohio University’s GIS Day — Dennis Dimick, Environment and Photography Editor for Nat Geo — I could barely contain my excitement!

And part of what makes my job as an Undergraduate Research Scholar at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ Environmental Studies Masters program so great is that I got to cover the GIS Day events on Twitter, as a social media aficionado. How cool is that?

Here are some of the highlights from Dennis Dimick’s presentation, “The Big View: Stewardship in the Age of Man,” as captured on social media.

The presentation was sponsored by multiple departments and entities across Ohio University’s campus: Ohio University (obviously); GIS Day organizers; the Scripps College of Communication, who hosted the keynote presentation in its brand-new Schoonover Center; the Department of Geography; the Voinovich School; the Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3); the Sustainability Studies and Fire to iPhone themes; and the Ohio chapter of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA). Ohio University’s Zero Waste team, a Voinovich-assisted initiative who’s social media I actively contribute to, was a partner for the event as well.

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Several of my Voinovich School peers — as well as journalism faculty members from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism — were in attendance for the keynote address.

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Dennis Dimick began the presentation talking about his background as a journalist and his interest in the environment. Dimick’s childhood growing up on a farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley heavily influenced both of his degrees in agriculture and agricultural journalism from Oregon State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, respectively.

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Then, we moved on to the topic of the day: the Age of Humans (otherwise known as the Anthropocene in recent environmental discourse). Dimick touched on energy, the future of food, and population growth — all issues that he’s worked on through various National Geographic Magazine initiatives since the early 2000s.

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With beautiful, compelling photographs and graphs, Dimick drove home the issue of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations that we’re likely to witness over the next century.

https://twitter.com/bethanynbella/status/667035288007540737

So, with all this doom and gloom about climate change and negative environmental impacts, what’s the future of our planet? Do we have a chance to save the environment?

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Dimick ended his presentation focusing on the promise of human ingenuity and sustainability — and how the future of the Earth is up to us!

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Contrary to popular discourse, the environment is a multi-disciplinary issue, involving economics, science, politics, and education. And there are feasible, economically viable solutions to mitigate serious environmental hazards within the next century — but we have to start moving towards a more sustainable mindset in the very near future to prevent serious, irreversible damage to our planet.

https://twitter.com/bethanynbella/status/667040152070549504

Climate change is truly the issue of our generation, but it’s not a lost cause (yet!). Everyday actions to improve energy efficiency and mindfulness when electing government representatives can all positively impact our environment — and the future of mankind.