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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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For Ladies Only: DivaCup Giveaway!

DivaCup Giveaway!I’m so glad many of you loved my article last week: For Ladies Only: Greening Your Menstrual Cycle.

If you haven’t made the switch to green your cycle, please jump aboard – I can tell you it has been very liberating for me, and by far the easiest “green” lifestyle change I’ve made!!


If you’d like to try the DivaCup for FREE, leave your name in the comments below. Next Sunday at noon I will randomly select a winner, who will receive a brand new DivaCup in the mail!

I LOVE my DivaCup – it’s a time and money saver with less mess, greater comfort, and better for the environment.  If you have any questions about it, the DivaCup website is full of answers -  plus feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.  Many thanks to Stacey and the DivaCup team for this opportunity.

Enter Your Name In The Comments For The Drawing!

For Ladies Only: Greening Your Menstrual Cycle

I thought about that title for a while, hopefully not offending anyone by excluding you gentlemen while still making the subject clear enough!  Gentlemen, hold your ears and close your eyes… That is, unless you are interested in passing on this info to your wives and girlfriends!

I received a wonderful question from Emily a few weeks ago:

One thing that I’ve been wondering about is how you deal with menstrual issues…. Assuming that you have periods, do you use/have you considered cloth pads, menstrual cups, or anything else along that vein?  Even if you, personally, don’t use these types of products, they may still be worth a mention as fairly healthy and environmentally-conscious alternatives to typical tampons and pads.

Thank you for asking Emily!

For Your Flow

I have tried just about everything.  Here are the results of years of experiments:

Organic Cotton Tampons

These are great if you are not yet ready for a big switch, but you are ready to get the toxins out of your body.  Conventionally grown cotton is FULL of pesticides, and you just don’t want those in your body.  And I know this sounds crazy, but when I switched to organic, my cramps got better – it was the weirdest thing!

My favorite is Natracare – they come in several sizes, and were the first ones readily available here in the US.  Seventh Generation makes them now as well, though I haven’t tried them.  I go applicator free, because I can’t stand wasting the paper.  I just wash my hands before and after.

Chemical-Free or Chlorine-Free Pads

I am not really a pad person, because it seems like so much product that goes to waste.  Also they don’t work all that well for me (organic or no) – I never have found one that protects well enough, even with wings!  But I have tried these once or twice in a pinch. Again, Natracare makes plastic-free, chemical-free pads from plant cellulose.  Seventh Generation makes a chlorine-free pad – but it does contain silicone.

Handmade Cloth Pads

I’m sure at one point or another, we have all used a cloth in an emergency, haven’t we?  There are loads of instructions for how to make good ones yourself online, but the principle is the same:

Purchased Cloth Pads

You can buy those same cloth pads if you don’t like or don’t have time to sew.  Here are some good places to purchase them:

Reusable Cups

This is my method of choice.  Love, love, love them!  So nice.  They can last up to 12 hours without needing to be removed, so there is no need to change it at work.  They last at least a year – if you keep it regularly cleaned you can probably make it last quite a bit longer.  I’ve used my Diva Cup for about 2 years now, and LOVE it.

I’ve only used the Diva Cup.  It comes in 2 sizes, based on your age and whether or not you’ve given birth (basically, our muscles tend to get a little less elastic and our hips get a little bigger).  I am well over 30 and started out using the smaller one because I hadn’t had children, but I just bought my second cup in the larger size and like it better.  It’s not a whole lot different, but it is more comfortable actually.

You can also try The Keeper – I’ve heard good things but have not tried it.

For The Cleaning

I received an email recently asking how to remove stains from cloth pads and clothing – thanks to Jean for asking this question!

On Clothing

Matt’s mother is a nurse, and taught me the most amazing trick a few years ago.  Being a nurse, she has had to clean up her fair share of blood on clothing.  The trick?

  • If it’s a little bit, dampen a cloth with straight hydrogen peroxide and dab it on the clothing.  You’ll still be able to wear the clothing.
  • If it’s a lot, poor straight hydrogen peroxide on the spot and leave it for several hours.  It doesn’t matter if it’s color or white fabric, this works on both types, and I have never found a fabric that this ruined.

You can buy hydrogen peroxide in any pharmacy, in the first aid section.  It’s usually in a dark brown bottle.  Or you can buy it in a health food store in the non-chlorine bleach section – it’s exactly the same thing!  There might be a slight variation in the percentage of hydrogen peroxide in each – don’t worry about the difference, I use both interchangeably.

For Reusable Pads

Wash them in hot water, with detergent and 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide.  If you left them sitting out for a while, soak them in a bowl full of hydrogen peroxide mixed with water (1:6).

For Reusable Cups

Clean each time you change it (at least twice per day), and just use warm water and mild hand soap.  After your cycle, wash and rinse the cup, and then submerge it in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes to sterilize it.  Then store it in a clean place – the Diva Cup comes with a little pouch you can store it in.

What Do You Use?

Does Living Sustainably Have To Take More Time?

Our Geyserville Garden

The Simple Life

About two years ago, Matt and I were living in Geyserville, CA, population 1,600.  He was working full time, and I was basically taking some time off from a taxing several years working long hours in the LA film industry.

When we moved there, we planned to stick around for the rest of our lives, living the simple life:  growing and preparing our own food, using very little electricity and water, learning to live as self-sufficiently as possible.  I eventually planned to learn to knit, sew clothing, can and preserve all the food we’d need for the winter, build a root cellar, and even install a micro-hydro-electric power unit and a composting toilet.

I learned a LOT.  I had a crash course in gardening with our 2,000+ square foot garden.  I almost became a master gardener (before I became fed up with the pro-pesticide stance they take), I preserved, Matt taught me how to bake bread using our own homemade Geyserville starter (and I did it every day), I was thinking about making my own soap and making my own just about everything else.

Worried Raisin

But then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Right around the time I rushed Raisin to the animal hospital as she sat in my lap dying from pesticides, Matt became fed up with his life of driving long distances to a low-wage job that required significant manual labor.  And quite honestly, I realized I wasn’t cut out for the full-time job of homemaking.  I had so many ambitions for my life that I no longer had time for.  I wanted to make big positive change in the world, and working an 18-hour job at home, I didn’t have time for much else.

For several important reasons, our lifestyle was not sustainable.  It was wonderfully fulfilling in some ways – both Matt and I were much healthier, we had time to re-think our life directions, I took up writing and found I loved it, and the flavors of home-grown, home-made cooking were out of this world.

But we were dependent on driving long distances, we were unable to economically make ends meet due to low-wage jobs in the country and the rising price of gas, and we weren’t happy with the long-term trajectory of living a lifestyle that focuses solely on living simply.  (Those of us who have tried it know that living simply is not so simple!)

Our City Rooftop

The Sustainable Life

So we took the amazing things we learned, and we moved to the most sustainable neighborhood in the most sustainably-minded city we could find (we did a lot of research).  And over the past year and a half since we moved here, I can tell you that one major, major thing that is left out of much sustainable or simple living books and blogs and ideas is this:  COMMUNITY.

What can community do for you?  Well, cities and towns were built for a reason: to exchange goods and services.  Why make and do EVERYTHING yourself, when you can focus on what you’re good at, and trade what you’re good at for other things you’re not so good at?  Why spend hours and hours making my own clothes when someone who does it for a living can do it much more efficiently in both time and money?  Or soap, or jam, or many, many things?

Pike Place Market

Using Community To Find Your Balance

I’m not saying cease simple living altogether.  It depends on your motivation.  My motivation is living as sustainably as I can, and getting others to do the same.  Well, sustainable living and simple living are not necessarily the same thing!

So that means I let other people make my food for me sometimes.  I don’t let just anyone make and grow my food – I am careful about who I pick, where they source their food, how they treat their employees, what their values are, etc.

But not all the time – I still grow some of our own food.  Why?  Because I like it, because there are more flavors and nutrients in the food I grow myself, because it is more sustainable than trucking in produce, and because gardening makes me happy and brings me a sense of peace.  I also like writing about gardening, and enjoy talking and writing with other gardeners.

So somewhere in there, my family is learning how to balance simple living with an overall sustainable lifestyle where we can still have ambitions to do stuff beyond our home life.

We’re still working on finding ways to be more sustainable with less time.  In some ways that is the antithesis of the simple living movement.  But it’s important for us to live our lives as we want to live them, and live them sustainably.

What does that mean?  I live about a mile and a half from work, and I walk to and from work every day.  That takes about an hour round-trip.  I save money on gas and parking (or public transit), I have a zero-carbon footprint commute, and I don’t need to go to the gym.  All in all, it takes me less time and money to walk than it would take me to use the car or the bus, and go work out in a gym.

That’s just one example of several.  I don’t grow all of our own food anymore – I buy food from local growers and vendors whom I trust; I buy soap from a local organic soap company; I buy used clothing from local thrift stores; I live in an energy-efficient apartment so I am warmer but still don’t need to turn on the heat much (increased quality of life!).  I do make my own shampoo and household cleaners, because it’s cheaper and easier than looking for a local green brand that works.

And I suppose that is the question Matt and I ask ourselves now:  can we do it ourselves cheaper, more easily, and more sustainably (in terms of the planet)?  If the answer is yes, we welcome it with open arms.  If the answer is no, we generally find a sustainable local source and pay that person to do it.

This is one of the main ways that our community helps us live sustainably.

So back to our question…

Does Living Sustainably Have To Take More Time?

No.  I believe it’s possible to find a balance between simple and sustainable, where you can simplify your life as much as you enjoy doing so, and utilize your community to help continue on your path to sustainability.

What Do You Think?

I’m not alone in thinking about these things today.  Green Bean got me thinking about this this morning, and Ruchi wrote quite a thought-provoking post called “Is Living Sustainably Unsustainable.”  What do you think?  Have you been able to find a balance between living sustainably and living the life you want to live?

Do Something For Our Friends In Haiti

Hi everyone.  I’m sure that you have read a lot about Haiti in the news, seen the terrible destruction on television, and heard more than you ever wanted to hear from friends and coworkers.  I don’t want to add to that deluge here, so I will make this very short.

I’ve met Haitian refugees who were living in the middle of sugarcane fields in the Dominican Republic.  I was filming there a couple of years ago (I was a documentary filmmaker, for those who don’t know).  The children there were amazing – funny, interested in what we were doing, wanting to learn where we were from, and really just being kids.  They had barely roofs over their heads, lived with very little money nor food and clothing, but they were always smiling and joking and enjoying life.

I guess I really just wanted to humanize the situation.  Kids are kids, people are people, and if our neighbors and friends were in trouble we would help them.  Our neighbors in Haiti need help.  They were already one of the poorest countries in the world.  They have lost their government, their roads, their homes, and – I would imagine – their hope.  Imagine.

If you have money, I would give money.  But you don’t have to give money, you can give time – help a local organization raise funds for Haiti.  Or if you can’t find a local organization, get some friends together and have a bake sale, or a benefit concert, or a walk-a-thon, or whatever it is that you enjoy doing.

I firmly believe that part of living in a sustainable world is helping our neighbors, helping spread the wealth and happiness to other communities, and being there when others need us most.  Sometimes the best thing we can do for the planet, and for ourselves, is to help others.

What To Do

Here are a few resources I have found.  If you have found good resources, please share them in the comments so that we can all learn more.

  1. From your cell phone,  text “Haiti” to 90999, to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross. Your phone company takes care of the rest, and takes no money from the transaction.
  2. If you’d rather give via the Clinton Foundation, text “Haiti” to 20222 (95.9% of the money goes directly to Haiti – the Red Cross gives a little less).
  3. Invest in the future of Haiti, by making a microfinance investment. While donations are incredibly important right now, investments in the future of Haitian businesses – to help them rebuild in the aftermath – is going to be incredibly important very soon.  If you want to learn more about Oikocredit, see my previous post.
  4. Donate via Google to CARE or UNICEF, both wonderful organizations.
  5. Donate to the ASPCA or Humane Society.

And again, if you have found other good resources, please comment to let us all know!  Thank you.

Sustainability Begins At Home

I had a long discussion the other day with someone at work about how to best create change in this world.  For her, the most important thing is to change policy, and focus on changing the minds of politicians.  It was an interesting discussion.

Do you believe that your individual changes at home make a difference?  Let me try to convince you that they do matter, that they do make a difference, and in fact without the little changes, I don’t believe we can make bigger policy changes…

Go Back In Time A Moment

Think back to a time before you brought your own bags to the grocery store (less than two years ago for me), or didn’t wonder whether that banana or apple was local or organic or even seasonal, or didn’t think twice about getting in the car and driving here or there.  Maybe you’re still working on those things, or maybe it hasn’t been that long since then, or maybe it has been years – but just think about that time before you knew.

Before you knew that there was a finite amount of oil in the world, or that the emissions in your car were making a big impact on the planet.  Before you knew that there were all sorts of pesticides deep within the fruit you were giving your children as a snack.  Before you knew you didn’t have to pay $5 for shampoo or kitchen cleaners….

I think about myself in high school, with my bleach blond permed hair, my pink lipstick and blue eye shadow, driving my VW Rabbit a bit too fast because it was the symbol of my freedom… you get the picture.

Ok, picture that former self and get back into that mindset…. what would you have said if you had been told by a politician you couldn’t drive your car anymore – it was time to take the bus?  Or that your lawn can’t be watered today, because you’re wasting water?  Or that you’re going to be charged for a flimsy plastic bag when you go to the store?  Or that this year the bulk of the national budget is going to help China figure out how to not make the same environmental (or social) mistakes we have made? Can you imagine?  You would have been pissed.

Because you hadn’t yet recalibrated your thinking, you hadn’t redefined normal in your own mind.  Those things didn’t matter to you then the way they do now.

Politics Are Normal

A politician cannot legislate a redefinition of normal.  The norms have to happen in society first, or that politician is going to be out of office next time around.  Politicians are keenly aware of what society defines as normal, and they don’t stray very far from it.

It’s up to us, regular people, to redefine normal in society.  Ten years ago nobody had heard of the term climate change.  Now it’s standard, normal, an everyday term and concept.  No politician legislated this.

Back in high school I had no idea my driving my car would have an impact on the environment.  But had a politician told me, I would probably have rebelled.  I needed to learn it for myself.  I needed to change my own mind.  And after I changed my own mind, I needed to change my own lifestyle.  Had a politician changed my lifestyle, I would have resented him.

Politicians Are Normal

That brings me to another point:  the politician would never have done that anyway!  Legislators care what their constituents think, if for not other reason than to get re-elected.  But more importantly, unless the politician fundamentally believes in something, he or she is not going to stick their neck out for it.  That means that politician has to redefine normal in his or her own life FIRST.  And that comes down to that person being human, just like the rest of us.

That’s what made us all change, isn’t it?  Our human-ness, our humanity, our need to feel good and be happy and understand our positive place in the world.

Sustainability begins at home for a politician just the same way it does for all of us.  Because we’re all human.

We Define Normal

And that is why what we are doing is important.  As we each redefine normal in our own lives, the whole tide of society is beginning to change.  How many more people do you know who are talking about a garden this year than 5 years ago?  How many more people do you know who are talking about local food, or being a part of their community, or saving more money this year, than even two years ago?  We’re changing the world, you and I.

We are changing the world, one piece of normal at a time.  Because changing a piece of normal eventually leads to changing one life at a time, and then one group of friends at a time, and then one community at a time, and, eventually, one world at a time.

It’s up to us.  Sustainability begins at home…. and then it spreads outward. We are making a difference, here and now.

Ten Holiday Traditions That Are Simple, Low-Cost, and Fun

Candle by firemedic58 on Flickr


Originally posted in 2008, I thought this would be a good reminder for all of us… please add your wonderful suggestions in the comments!


While Redefining The Holidays, I wrote that my family has some traditions that we’ve kept through the years, even as my sister and I have grown and moved across the country in opposite directions.

We eat creamed eggs (and ham for non-vegetarians) on Christmas Eve. Does that sound like a strange meal? It was once a Christmas morning tradition, where we’d have creamed eggs for breakfast after opening presents. But then the extended family changed our gathering from evening to morning, and we didn’t get a chance to have creamed eggs for breakfast. So we moved it to Christmas Eve.

When my sister and I were just entering our teens, we decided we needed a new tradition. Long after Santa was discovered, we made a tradition that after our creamed eggs and ham, we would all sit together in front of the fire and pass around ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, each of us reading one stanza before we pass it to the next person. I remember once my grandmother called long distance while we were just beginning to read, and she joined us, reading stanzas from her copy in New Mexico.

The tradition continued long after my sister and I left the house for college. When significant others made it home with us, they joined in the tradition. Sometimes one or both of us didn’t make it for Christmas, so we conferenced in via telephone, I in New York or Los Angeles, my sister in St. Louis.

After we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, we each open one present from beneath the tree. And then we either go off to bed, or – more likely – we spend some time getting our presents together for the next day’s celebration.

They are simple traditions, but there is comfort in tradition, isn’t there? Sure, sometimes we groan about reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, but in truth it brings us all together in the present, as it reminds us of good times in the past.

Popcorn and Cranberry Garland by Gare and Kitty on Flickr

Ten Simple, Frugal, and Fun Holiday Traditions

1. Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at your church – children love this.  Or light a menorah or kinara each evening.  Or light a peace candle and place it in the window at sundown.  Remember that the ceremony is as important as the candle – make sure to infuse the lighting with meaning and significance.

2. Work on creating your family tree together.  Each year, get together and research another generation of your family tree.  You might create a scrapbook for this purpose.  Add stories and anecdotes if you have them or can find them.  Read favorite past stories to youngsters and new members of the family.

3. Make holiday gifts together:  eg, cookies, fudge, marmalade, jars of spices or seeds, calendars, salts, soap, bubble bath or bath salts, candles, sachets, knitting projects, sewing projects, dried soup mixes, coupons for experiences/services, your family’s traditional homemade foods (eg, frozen tamales, cannolis), and so on.

4. Make holiday decorations together:  trim the boughs with holly and cedar, create bread dough ornaments, string popcorn and raw cranberries, make a wreath from plants in the garden, make pine-scented candles or potpourri vessels, build a homemade gingerbread house.

5. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank. While this is a good tradition to have other times of the year as well, in the Northern Hemisphere the holidays are the coldest time of year – when more homeless people need the warmth and safety of shelter and good meals.  This experience leaves a lasting impression on many children – suddenly meals, shelter, and gifts are not taken so much for granted.

6. Decorate wrapping paper together.  Collect newspapers, magazines, used printer paper, paper bags, and other reusable paper. Then use holiday stamps, crayons, ink, scissors, and whatever else strikes your fancy – to personalize your wrapping paper together.

7. Redistribute the wealth together. If your family can afford to somehow help another family who is less well-off, get together and figure out the best way to help. Could you give the other family much-needed gifts? Invite them over for dinner? Make them some homemade frozen meals they can pop into the oven when they need them? Tutor their children in English? Help set up a scholarship fund for their children to go to school? Help parents get a job, or a better job with a livable wage? Babysit their children so the adults can have a night out together? Send the children of a parent who is serving overseas a care package? Be creative – it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Northwest Native Americans have a tradition of potlatch ceremonies, where the more wealthy families throw a big feast and give gifts for those who are less well off.  There is no expectation for the gifts to return – the return is the feeling that you have given what you can to help others.  But even if you don’t feel wealthy right now, remember there is someone else out there who is less well-off than you.  Give what you can – even if it is time and/or experience, it can be very helpful to others more in need.

8. Play games together.  Dig out that old Scrabble board, Boggle, Pictionary, deck of cards, or whatever you have in your basement or closet.  If you don’t have any games, you can usually find them at local thrift stores and garage sales for cheap. Then spend the evening drinking eggnog and playing games!

9. Sit in front of the fire and take turns reading a book together.  It can be ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, like my family (above). It can be a favorite family story, or a new book each year.  And if there are family members who can’t make it home for the holidays, call them on the phone and make them a part of this tradition.

10. Reflect on the past year and make plans for the new year together.  What would you have done differently if you could?  What will you chance about yourself and your work as you move forward into the new year?  What goals did you reach this past year, and what will you strive to reach in the coming year?  How can those around you help you with your new goals, your new journey?  How can you support one another to reach these new goals?

Luminaria 'Estrellas' by jared on Flickr

Please Share Your Own Traditions!

I find it incredibly useful to hear what others are doing to create traditions and consistency throughout the holidays.  So… please add to this list!

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For the Holidays: No- and Low-Cost Eco-Friendly Gifts!

Learn about the Buy Nothing New For the Holidays Challenge


It’s December 20th, and I haven’t bought a single gift for the holidays.  Am I worried?  Maybe a little bit, but I’m not stressed about it.  I have thought about it a lot, and I already know what I’ll be getting most of my friends and family.  For most, I don’t even need to leave my home!


The other day I asked readers and friends what ideas they had for no-cost gifts.  Here’s my favorite answer, from Stacey:


So, as a kid, I collected Breyer model horses. I was obsessed with them and all things horsey. Recently, I found them stored in my garage and have decided that they now need to belong to my equally horse-obsessed nieces. There are so many things right with this… I get a whole new opportunity to share my toys [I may not have excelled at this as a ... See Morekid], my nieces get something that they’ll love to play with, the garage will be less cluttered and, the best thing is that I get to share something with them that I once loved.


That brings me to….


Gift Idea #1: Gifts From Your Home, Garage, or Storage


Most of us have things around the house, and particularly stored in a box or a corner somewhere that mean something special to us – or more often than not, meant something special to us – and we can’t bare to part with it.  Books, records, dresses, coats, vases, pictures, dolls, figurines, games, tools, fishing gear, … the list continues, doesn’t it?  So why not keep it close to you, and give it to someone who will really appreciate it?  An antique means nothing in your basement.  The memories will never leave your mind, and new memories will be formed if you give it to someone who will love it.


If the object means something special to you, you might want to attach your story to the gift.  Tell the special someone about the gift, or write it down in a note:  where it came from and what it meant to you.  Think of this as part of the gift you’re giving.  Because after all, it is probably the most important part!


Here’s another great story from Julie:


One of my most treasured gifts was from my grandmother- a collection of old photos from my childhood, my mother’s childhood and even earlier ones of my grandmother as a young woman. She was able to scale back her photo closet plus give us grandkids something to treasure. She really enjoyed the process of going through and picking out ones for each of us.


Gift Idea #2: Special Keepsakes From the Heart


My grandmother always used to say that instead of waiting until she’s passed away and people attach sadness to a  special gift given in a will, she’d rather give it away now and watch people really enjoy it.  So true – it makes such a difference to hear the stories and to share the experiences!


Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry, a photograph, a work of art, an heirloom passed through generations… Share it with someone you love this year.  Make sure you tell the stories behind the gift, and make the giving of the gift truly special.  Spend the time and effort to let the person know how special this keepsake is to you, and how much you want that person to have it and treasure it.  And let it bring you closer together.


Gift Idea #3: Thoughtful Non-Material Gifts


Here’s a great list from Rachel:


1. Baby sitting someone’s kids for the evening so they can have alone time.
2. Washing someone’s car or cleaning their house – or doing any other housework errand that they can’t find the time/energy to do (like helping them tackle that overflowing mess of a closet, for example).
3. Chopping someone’s firewood.
4. Putting up someone’s Christmas lights for them.
5. The gift of your time. Actively prioritizing relationships we take for granted: ACTUALLY taking the time to spend a few hours visiting with friends that you don’t often see.


And from Risa:


6. Listening. With offer of fresh hot chocolate.


I’d add to this list:


7.   Help painting the porch

8. Gardening: pruning, planting, composting, and more

9. Setting up dad’s computer

10. A candlelight dinner for two at home


Gift Idea #4: A Coupon Book of Non-Material Gifts


Here’s another one from Julie:


One time my sister and I made a coupon booklet for my parents, with things like: a homecooked meal, mowing the lawn, a neck and back massage, being chauffeur for the day, etc.


You can certainly add kisses and hugs, as well as all the things listed in #5.


Gift Idea #5: Re-Gift


I know, it’s not super kosher to re-gift, but what else are you going to do with it?  And why not give it to someone who will appreciate it?


From Tree:


For my Father-in-Law: I regift (I know some people think its taky). Each year one of the Servicers I use through the year, sends me a lovely gourmet basket – It perfect for DH’s dad and we don’t eat that sort of stuff.


Gift Idea #6: Make Something


You don’t have much time, but sometimes things don’t take much time to make.  On Tuesday, my Mom and I are getting together to make homemade biscotti for all of our cousins.  I see it as a gift my mother and I are giving one another (spending quality time together), and a tasty gift for our family members.  Another idea?  How about a collage of meaningful photos, or a calendar made from your great trip photos or photos of your garden?


From Rob:

most things I give are homemade, and this year giving one of my turkey fryer burners to a friend who brews his own beer. LOL I don’t need two fryers anyway. And I am “remaking” clocks- one or two of them are old clocks I had sitting around, and 1 was bought at the “AS-IS” department at IKEA

From Erin:

I’ve been canning my garden bounty the last few weeks and have lots of salsa and mustard to give as gifts. I also plan to do a lot of knitted gifts again this year, but am keeping it simple with toys/ornaments for the nieces and nephews.

That brings me to…


Idea #7: Gifts From The Garden


You can’t grow anything now, sure – but you can give dried herbs or fruit, canned goods, saved seeds, and propagated plants.  Yes!  I have a cardamon plant indoors that just keeps making new shoots.  It’s too big for its pot now, so I’m going to divide a few of the shoots and re-pot them as gifts!  Or maybe you’re like me, and you have four pothos plants around your home from different cuttings at different times.  Why not give one away to someone who doesn’t have much greenery in their home?  Plus, imagine the joy of receiving a jar of homemade jam… Yum!


Idea #8: Peruse Antique Stores, Thrift Stores, and Used Book Stores

You may have cleaned out your storage units, your closets, and your garage and have little to offer from your home.  Well, go into town and have some fun going through the local antique store.  A beautiful first-edition copy of your mom’s favorite book, an awesome game you used to play as kids (maybe you can turn it into a new holiday tradition), a vintage handbag, an irresistible shawl, a tricycle, almost anything you can think of giving comes in used versions!

Idea #9: Charity Gift Cards

This is a great gift for people who don’t need or want more things, but to whom you really want to give a gift and show your appreciation and love.  If you know their favorite charity, you can make a donation in their name.  Otherwise, one of my favorites is Heifer International, where you can make a donation of goats for a family to keep for milk, or ducks for eggs, or many other things.  And one of our favorite clients is TisBest, which allows you to give a gift card (you can give it in email form), and the recipient can choose which charity to give it to.


Idea #10: A Coupon Book for Local Goods and Services


Here in Seattle, we have the Chinook Book.  I love it.  It costs $20, you can buy it from any number of local stores or charities, and it has loads of coupons for green, sustainable, and local goods and services.  I save hundreds of dollars using these coupons over the year, and it helps me support local businesses.  How about giving one to someone who are looking for an extra push to “go local” or “go green”, or someone who could use some extra coupons in their life (and who couldn’t these days?).

There are several other types of coupon books out there.  Check around or Google “coupon book” and the name of your city or state.  And the Chinook Book is also available in Portland, Denver, Silicon Valley, East Bay, and Twin Cities.


Did You Already Buy All Your Gifts?

You may have done all your shopping this year.  But did you see something on this list that is better than what you’ve bought?  Or cheaper?  So give the no- or low-cost, meaningful gift instead and take the other one back.  I bet you won’t regret it at all!


Did This List Make You Think of Some Great Gift Ideas?


Yes?  Great!!  Go do it, and please take a moment to share your ideas with the rest of us in the comments below, so we can all have more ideas!