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Wiser Living

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Green Your Life: Homemade Gift Guide for the Holidays

by Dani Hurst

Tags: green your life, dani hurst, gifts, gift, gift guide, green gifts, homemade, bottle cutting, fruit leather, beef jerky, sachets, sachet,

Even before Thanksgiving I was being bombarded by commercials about buying gifts for the ones I love, and now that Christmas is practically upon us, that number just keeps growing. “Buy, buy, buy!” they urge me, but this year I’m chanting back: “Make, make, make!” Making—especially out of repurposed items—instead of buying is a way to give green and unique gifts while lightening your impact on the planet and saving money at the same time.  

Give Glass 

My romance with cutting glass at home started innocently enough, but it has grown into a bit of an obsession. I’ve cut dozens of bottles since that first one, and it’s really gotten my creative juices flowing. I recommend Ephrem’s Bottle Cutter Kit to anyone interested in transforming old bottles into useful items and unique gifts. 

homemade beer glasses 
You can cut bottles with well-known labels already on them (on right), or you can choose to embellish them yourself (on left). I used Mod Podge to decoupage art, photos and comics to the glasses I decorated for my friends. Because Mod Podge isn’t water-proof, though, I would suggest washing them carefully (without getting the Mod Podge wet), or else using them to hold pens or art supplies. Photo By Dani Hurst. 

homemade candle holders 
Candle holders can be tall or short, and you can make them out of beer or wine bottles. You can also decorate these, just make sure to stick art on the outside so the glue doesn’t melt. Photo By Dani Hurst. 

Helpful tip: To remove sticky label residue from wine and beer bottles, rub some vinegar on the exposed glue, wait a few minutes, then rub a vinegar-soaked cotton ball on the affected area until the glue sloughs off. 

Dole Out Delicious Treats 

If you make edible gifts for your friends, you can customize them to fit their personal tastes. For instance, if you know your friend is a fruit fiend, you can make them some homemade fruit leather or trail mix with freshly dried fruits. Or if your pal prefers a little spice, dry them up a batch of fiery beef jerky. You can even pep up some fruit leather or dried fruits by adding a pinch or two of cayenne pepper before they’re fully dried. 

fruit leather 
My most recent batch of fruit leather was a scrumptious combination of peach and strawberry. I’ve also tried adding dried fruits to the puree before it fully dries, which worked out really well. Photo By Dani Hurst. 

If you’re looking to give a more traditional treat, nothing beats sugar cookies with homemade frosting. I used to decorate holiday cookies with my friend, and they were both delicious and festive. In fact, you can host a cookie decorating party with your friends and family so you can make memories while making cookies. 

For the cookies 

1 cup softened butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg lightly beaten
2 3/4 cups flour

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Add egg and beat for 1 minute. Stir in flour gradually. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Roll out on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes (make sure you dip cutter into loose flour between cookie cuttings). Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 min on ungreased cookie sheet. (Check often to make sure cookies do not burn and adjust time accordingly.) 

For the frosting 

2/3 cup butter (not margarine), cold
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoon milk

Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually. Add salt. Beat after each addition. Add vanilla and milk gradually. Beat well. 

Send Scented Sachets 

Another great holiday gift is a scented sachet because it combines pleasing scents with greener living. Sachets can scent drawers and cabinets and can even replace dryer sheets, thus reducing your pal’s waste pile. Plus, muslin sachets are refillable, so they’re a much more sustainable option than dryer sheets. So now, every time they open their sock drawer or smell their clean laundry, they’ll think of you! 

laundry basket with dryer sachet 
I received a dryer sachet as a gift a few months ago, and I haven’t touched a dryer sheet since. Dryer sachets don’t have the harsh chemicals that dryer sheets do, plus they’re refillable. Lavender is an excellent choice for sachets, but don’t be afraid to venture away from that if you or your gift recipient prefers a different scent. Photo By Dani Hurst.