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Give the Gift of Experience This Holiday Season + 5 Ideas

Give the Gift of Experience This Holiday Season + 5 Ideas

Hello, Friends! Can you believe Christmas is only a handful of days away? If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping, you are officially a last-minute shopper! No worries, you can still surprise everyone on your holiday list and those gifts can be eco-friendly too! Read on to discover five of my favorite last minute holiday gifts that don’t require you to even leave the comfort of your sofa.

1. Give the Gift of Experience
One of my favorite gifts to give is the gift of experience. A few years ago I gave the mister scuba diving lessons and this year part of Eben’s holiday gift is art lessons. I have given the gift of annual memberships to botanic gardens and science museums. The possibilities are endless, just consider what your recipient enjoys and go from there.

2. Give a Gift that Helps Someone Else
Have a do-gooder on your holiday list? Consider giving a gift certificate to Kiva – your recipient will go through a list of loan applicants and pick a hard-working borrower to give a micro-loan too. This is a great way to help entrepreneurs in other countries who need a little help, the best part when the entrepreneur pays the loan back, you get to re-loan the funds to another entrepreneur!

3. Give the Gift of Your Time
I was telling the mister the other day that the best gift that I could ever receive is the gift of someone offering to take Eben for the weekend. Since we live very far away from most of Eben’s grandparents, we have never left him for a long weekend. Wouldn’t a romantic long weekend with your loved one be the perfect gift! The possibilities here are endless as well, just think of something that you can do for someone else and wrap that up as a gift.

4. Give the Gift of Nature
I love to receive a gift in the form of a living plant or something that can be planted in the yard. Even better when the plant is of edible variety. Eben and I gave the mister a lemon tree one year as a birthday gift – and it is a gift that he seriously enjoys every day. He is always watering, pruning and checking for lemons – and seeing how much the tree has grown is a delight. Plus, giving him lemonade all year long has been a sweet gift that he really enjoys.

5. Give the Gift of Your Expertise
Are you a fantastic chef? Can you sew a mean pair of pajamas? Are you great at web design? A beautiful photographer? Whatever it is that you are an expert at consider giving that as a gift this holiday season. If you are a fantastic cook, arrive at your recipients home with all of the ingredients necessary to cook a fabulous meal for them. Spend the time teaching your recipient how to prepare and cook the meal and then enjoy it together!

Do you give the gift of experience during the holidays? I would love to hear about the gifts you are giving this holiday season.

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips

5 Budget and Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Shopping Tips Sweet Greens

While this time of the year is the most wonderful  – it is also the busiest. You may feel like there are so many things that you need to prepare and buy and deciding where to start can be overwhelming. Instead of getting things done ahead of time, many of us tell ourselves we will get everything done when the holidays get closer. Then, the next thing you know the holidays are upon us and we end of spending too much money, getting completely stressed out, and not making the best choices – not exactly the feelings that you want to experience. It happens to the best of us, right?To get your holiday shopping off on the right foot, I thought I would share my favorite budget and eco-friendly holiday shopping tips. These are all tips that I use every year to make sure that this time of the year is definitely the most wonderful without breaking the bank or losing my head!

1. Make a List – Check it Twice
Every year, I create a simple holiday gift list in my iPhone. It includes the name of everyone on my holiday shopping list, gift ideas for each of them and my spending limit per person. Since my list is on my phone, I can consult and update it at anytime. Then, I mark off each person as I finish their holiday gift shopping. This has saved me a lot of time and money and I never have to ask myself – did a buy a gift for so and so? Or, how many gifts did I buy for Eben or the mister? I just check the list and I am done!

2. Start Early
The earlier that you start your holiday shopping, the better. Just think, if you finish all of your holiday shopping early, you can spend the day after Thanksgiving at home, snuggled up with your family and a yummy warm beverage. I can’t think of anything more stress-free then having all of the holiday shopping done before December even arrives. It really frees up all of December to focus on making fun memories with my family. This is another place that #1 comes in, if you shop early picking up items when you find them on sale – you save a ton of money.

3. Shop Locally
Instead of hitting the closest big box store this holiday season, consider supporting small, independently owned businesses. Many towns have a shopping area that is filled with adorable shops that focus on the work of local artisans and many have eco-friendly options. In my opinion, a handmade gift is the best gift! You could also give a gift from your local farm, such as; fresh vegetables, fruits or dairy items. Another option is to check out Etsy for fantastic handmade goods, you can click here to shop Etsy shops located in your local area.

4. It’s All About Quality
Each year, I like to focus on purchasing the mister and Eben quality gifts that they will enjoy for years and years to come. I focus on items that I think they will really enjoy and steer clear of items that are disposable, or would only be enjoyed temporarily. My favorite items to purchase for them include; books, experiences (see below), heirloom quality items that they will keep forever and gifts that focus on their favorite hobbies.

5. Give the Gift of Experience
I am a huge fan of giving the gift of experience, some that I have given in the past include annual passes to local nature and science museums, state parks, botanical gardens, art centers and even scuba lessons. I think gifts that allow the recipient to learn something new or go to place they have always wanted to see builds memories and brings much more happiness long-term than any material gift could ever could. Plus, it’s just another excuse to spend more quality time with my family – and that is the best gift of all.

What are your favorite holiday shopping tips? Please share them in the comments section – I would love to hear! 

5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Plan for Thanksgiving Dinner

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Hello, Friends! I am pretty excited, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you hosting the big dinner this year? There are many eco-friendly ways to green your Thanksgiving dinner – all of which are easier to implement if you plan ahead. Many of these ideas will save you money and time while cutting down on the amount of waste that can accumulate from a big family dinner. Read on to learn my 5 favorite eco-friendly ways to plan your Thanksgiving dinner and start planning today!

1. Decorating 101
You don’t have to spend any money when decorating for Thanksgiving, instead use items that you already have or consider bringing natural items indoors. We always have a handful of pumpkins leftover from Halloween that we use as Thanksgiving decorations. And Eben and I like to take a nature walk to collect natural elements (pine-cones, acorns, branches and leaves) to display as our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

2. How Much is Enough?
It is really easy to go overboard when planning the Thanksgiving menu. Consider the dishes that you will be serving and ask yourself if you are making more than is necessary. Choose a few dishes that you are sure your guests will love and skip the rest. Also, consider which parts of Thanksgiving dinner you want to or can afford to purchase organic and whenever possible, avoid pre-packaged items.

3. Consider the Table
Do you have enough dinnerware for everyone in your dinner party? If not, consider borrowing place settings from close friends or family members instead of purchasing new. If you aren’t a china and tablecloth kind of family and choose to go with disposable place settings, choose a great compostable version that is made from 100% recycled materials.

4. Think Seasonal
When choosing fruits and vegetables for your Thanksgiving menu, think seasonal. You want to avoid purchasing produce that are imported from far away. You may consider joining a local CSA for the holiday season – not only will you have delicious, local foods to serve this Thanksgiving, but you will be supporting a local farm too.

5. Plan for Leftovers
What do you plan to do with the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers? If you are planning on sending goodies home with your guests, have glass resuable storage containers ready to go. If you made more than your family can consume, you could donate some of the leftovers to a local food bank, freeze them for later or have a menu plan for the days after Thanksgiving so all of the leftovers will be used.

How do you green your Thanksgiving dinner? I would love to hear – please share your thoughts in the comments!

5 Tips for Throwing Green Summer Parties

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Summer is almost here which means BBQ’s, baby showers, and engagement parties are right around the corner. Since these events are often filled with flowers, decorations, catered food, and disposable cutlery and plates, their carbon footprint is often bigger than you’d expect. Don’t worry, there are tips you can take to make your summer party more eco-friendly. Read on for my five great tips for greening your summer parties.

#1. Serve Locally Grown Food
Unless you know where the restaurant or grocery store catering your event sources its food, chances are it’s traveled a long distance to make it to your doorstep, using manpower, gasoline, and a lot of packaging. And while a catered meal is impressive and beautiful, most hosts find themselves throwing away 30-50% of the food after the party is over. These two factors amount to a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead of ordering an elaborate meal that won’t get eaten, why not shop for produce, cheese, and pastries at your local organic farmer’s market? For starters, you could grill seasonal veggies, make fruit-infused water with local citrus and cucumbers, or even pick up a few growlers of a local micro-brew. Some farms even sell locally raised meats! You’ll be supporting local farms and serving seasonal, organic food so it’s guaranteed to be a healthy, delicious spread.

#2. Go Compostable
If you’ve ever hosted a party you know that the used plates, napkins, utensils, and platters from your event make trash day quite the spectacle. Instead of adding to the enormous amount of garbage already filling our landfills and oceans, spend an extra few bucks on compostables. Specialty stores, and an increasing number of mainstream supermarkets, carry everything from compostable cups and forks to straws. And you don’t necessarily have to compromise design; sites like SustyParty.com sell biodegradable party supplies that are fun and colorful. If you’re planning a big event, many eco-product sites offer discounts for bulk orders of compostable party supplies.

#3. Let Nature Do the Decorating
Instead of hosting your party inside where you’ll need to decorate (and air condition your guests!), take it out back or to a local park and let nature’s beauty do the work! You’ll be saving money, trips to the store, and the waste created by cheap decorations that only offer a single use, and won’t be filling the house with cut flowers that will only last a week.

#4. Email Invitations
Paper invitations and RSVP cards are becoming a thing of the past. With the speed and convenience of electronic invites, there’s no reason not to go green! Sites like Evite offer dozens of designs for all kinds of holidays and events, and personalizing is encouraged. Creating and emailing invitations or sending guests a message about updates takes mere minutes. Plus, your guest list and RSVP’s will all be in one handy place!

#5. Green the Gifts
If the event you’re hosting is for you or you have a say in the gifts, offer guests the option to give money or gift certificates. Even items purchased from a registry can end up being duplicates, or the recipient may change her mind if the list was made before she had enough information. If the guest of honor is also eco-conscious, she may accept a hand-me-down like used baby clothes or a beloved heirloom, with as much excitement as a store-bought gift.

YOUR TURN: How do you minimize waste at your gatherings? Do you have tips we didn’t think of? Let us know—and get creative!

Planning To Move? Donate Your Stuff!

NOTE FROM SWEET GREENS: Thank you for supporting the companies that keep Sweet Greens in business.
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At some point in life, all of use will move at least once. I mean we have to move out of our parents’ house, right? When you do move, deciding what to do with all of your stuff can be a hassle. What do you take? What do you get rid of? We sure do not want to take everything we own with us, because we will just be accumulating more for our new place. Donating your things is a great way to get rid of the things you do not need. You may not need them, but someone else may. But what should you donate? Should you just throw the junk away? That depends greatly on what it is.

You may be moving just across the street, or you may be moving all the way across the country. If you are moving across the country, you do not want to haul more stuff with you than you really need to. You should try to donate as much as possible before asking for help from places like Allied Van Lines. Most people hope to get rid of enough stuff so that they only have to rent one van to move them. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it does not.

It is always good to donate kid’s toys. Toys are something that a lot of parents cannot afford for their kids but really want their kids to have. When you donate toys, you are not only helping out the parent, but you are making a child very happy. Toys, games, bikes, and even game stations are great to donate if you no longer need them. If a parent can pick these things up for free or cheap around the holidays, it will really help them out financially. It will also allow their child to have a wonderful holiday and allow the parent to lose some stress while they watch their child enjoy the “new-to-them” toy. You can also donate household goods and clothes. Anything you are not using can be donated. You will help out lots of people by donating things and it will make you feel great about yourself.

There are many different ways you can donate. You can donate to charities, you can donate to local thrift shops, you can donate to a family that has suffered a tragedy, such as a house fire, or you can donate to local centers in your area that help out families. You can donate to churches! Churches are always helping out families when they are going through tough times. Talk with people in your community and find out where you can lend a hand.

You do not have to wait until you are moving to donate stuff. People need stuff daily. You can donate more than just toys, clothes, and things like that. Donate things that you know people will use every day. Things like toilet paper, paper towels, food, toiletries, used furniture, and all things like this. These types of things will help people out so much. We do not think about these types of items when we think about donations, but these are the products that people need the most. You can even donate your time. Maybe help is needed at a local food pantry, or a local church is offering free daycare for needy families. Lend a hand. Donate an hour or two of your time to help out.

Whether you are moving or not, if you have some extra stuff laying around your house that you no longer need, donate it. Help out a family in need. If you have some extra money this week and you can buy a few toiletries or a few cans of food, do it. It does not cost anything to donate what you have. You never know when a family may really need it. Helping out other families will make you feel great too. You may be the family on the receiving end one day so try to help out whenever you can!