Green Living: 10 ways to green your holidays


With the Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year's approaching, here are some no cost and low cost ways to end 2013 with an eco-friendly bang.

Heartfelt Gifts

1. Give your time. In our "More and More" world, it's easy to forget that the gift of time is most precious. Consider giving “gift certificates” for a skill that you can teach, such as music lessons or knitting, or a service, like pet-sitting or house cleaning. No cost. 2. Give an experience. Find a local guided tour, class on a shared interest, massage at a spa or tickets to a sporting event, museum, concert or play. homemade gift3. Bake an incredible gift. Use your skill in the kitchen to bake breads, cookies, preserves, dried fruits, nut mixes or herbed vinegars...all presented in reusable containers, of course! Low cost. 4. Buy locally made gifts whenever possible. Cloth napkins and kitchen towels make especially green gifts. Discover the many craft fairs around town, as well as the Oak Park Women's Exchange at 839 S Oak Park Ave in Oak Park ( 5. Give the gift of a greener world by giving things such as a refurbished computer, backyard composter, rain barrel, refillable thermos bottle, and recycled-content stationery. If you're giving a battery-operated toy, include rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.

Dreamy Decor

6. Eat meals by candlelight. Turning off the lights is romantic for adults and fun for kids! No cost. 7. Upgrade to energy saving LED holiday lights that are up to 90 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent holiday bulbs (recycle the old ones - see #10). Low cost. 8. Put lights on timers to save energy while you're traveling. Low cost. 9. Make wreaths and centerpieces from your yard. Bonus: If you combine annual winter pruning -- trees and shrubs are dormant in December-- your plants and your home will look fabulous! It's so easy to assemble wreaths and centerpieces using arborvitae, juniper, pine and spruce. Dried seed pods, pinecones, and grasses add a nice touch. Read this Chicago Tribune article or search "natural winter decorations" on (Remember: boughs quickly lose needles in the dry air of a home, so hang homemade wreaths outside and make centerpieces the day before the party.) No cost. 10. Recycle your Christmas tree and other greenery. Many towns have tree recycling programs. And some recycle holiday lights. Look for details from the villages in January. No cost. Find more tips on reducing, reusing and recycling at