Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 A Year In Review, Environmentally Speaking

'Tis the season, this week between December 25th and January 1st, where all sorts of lists start coming out. The bests and the worsts. The top movies-books-music of the year. The most memorable events of the year to make history. I'm sure there's more.

Along those lines, and knowing that the last couple have been some hard ones, I thought it might be interesting to compile some of those lists here that look at the year from an environmental perspective.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

May your Holidays be Full of Warmth and Cheer

 Using this space and place today to wish you warmth, cheer, joy, love, and laughter. 

Thank you for the gift of traveling alongside GTG all these years.

Image created at

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

#Twelvetide & Purposeful Kindness

12 is is one of those recurring, symbolic number--especially during the holidays.
  • There's the carol: "12 Days of Christmas"
  • The actual "12 Days of Christmas" fall on the dates of Christmas through January 5th, leading up to January 6th's Epiphany.
  • There's the cyclical nature of 12 months in a year, which is the cycle from one Christmas to another
  • And we have 12 hours doubled to make the 24 hour cycle that makes one day.
Those 12 actual Days of Christmas can also be called "Twelvetide."

I ran across a post about Twelvetide on Dr. Wallace J. Nichol's Facebook Page. [Dr. Nichol is the author of Blue Mind, one of my favorite environmental books.] The post was about both the 12 days between Christmas and New Year as well as their family traditions of random acts of gratitude, kindness, and community service. Their post was about their family list from 2016-2017. Some of the activities they did as a family that year included a beach cleanup, Starbucks gift card deliveries to those who were in need, letters to children in an orphanage, cookie deliveries to the forestation, a care package for an ill friend, thank you notes to mentors in their lives, sock donations to a homeless person, and more.

Ironically, parallels were instantaneous as I was also currently reading the book Twelve Days of Christmas: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber. Essentially a lighthearted, holiday Hallmark movie in a book, this story was about a woman writing a blog about her crotchety neighbor (deemed "Ebeneezer"), and what the effects would be if she "killed him with kindness" for 12 days straight. [Spoiler alert--it worked.]

Podcaster Charlene Johnson has a similar tradition to the Nichols' #Twelvetide above called "10 Envelopes." This link takes you to this year's story of their family's annual tradition.

All three are variations on the concept of random acts of kindness. [This link, by the way, has a slew of ideas if you need some.] Purposeful kindness falls in line with the idea of giving--not just gifts but of your self. Giving is also a strong seasonal theme with Hanukkah, Christmas, and the African American holiday Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa falls December 26-January 1, and  has similar themes of community, unity, working together for the common good, and giving of themselves in the 7 principles. 

The beauty of purposeful kindness is that it does not have to be tied to any one holiday, any particular time of year, or any set religion.

As the year is winding to a close with Christmas and the pocket of Twelvetide ahead, and the start of the new year, maybe now is the season for you to practice some purposeful kindness. What big or little things can you do to go outside yourself to help others? With the stressors we've seen from everything between the pandemic to politics to other global concerns, now more than ever before, it might be the time to reach out and make the world better for each other. 

Whether it's one thing or a total of twelve, use this time of the year to pay forward some seasonal joy.

Art from

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Wrapping We Will Go

If you celebrate Christmas, you are in that final stretch. With any luck, you have found every perfect gift item for everyone on your list. Some may be gifts that give back in one way or another, some may be from shopping local (always great for the community merchants), and some may be gifts that aren't "stuff." Hopefully any orders have traveled as they were supposed to and have landed on your front porch with care--and without delays.

Now, let the wrapping begin!

Wrapping gifts is another one of those environmental conundrums. There's a lot of waste involved in wrapping (and the packaging of those gifts if they all come on your doorstep).

We have our bow box (a long time tradition), our container of gift bags, and try to buy paper made out of recycled materials when we can. But here are some other ideas if you need them from Eco With Em. 

For more ideas on reducing your wrapper waste check out these links:

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Gifts That Are Light On Your Wallet AND The Planet

As we all know, 'tis the season for gift giving and shopping. If you are still doing both, this may be just what you need. I ran across this graphic on Eco With Em's Facebook page. (I love her illustrations and approach to environmentalism.) It serves as an excellent reminder that gifts can have great meaning and not come with a pricy gift tag, being both good for your wallet and our planet! 

May you both give and receive some of these gifts this holiday season!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Decisions, Decisions: Christmas Tree Edition

Choice. The world is full of it, and we are always making them. Sometimes they’re simple and merely a matter of taste: vanilla -vs- chocolate, Pepsi -vs- Coke. Star Wars -vs- Star Trek. Regular -vs- decaf.

Sometime they go deeper into moral, economic, political and they are much harder. This is often true with environmental dichotomies: Wind -vs- Solar Power. Reuse -vs- recycle. Paper -vs- plastic. 

The same holds true with one of the most classic Christmas symbols—the tree. The dilemma? Real -vs- artificial.

The answer? Not always simple!

As Matt Hickman's November 2021 Treehugger article "What's the Environmentally Preferable Choice: A Real Christmas Tree or a Faux One?" points out, a big determining factor is what are your post-Christmas plans for that tree of yours. Some quick points: Tossing a real tree in a landfill is never a good idea. Make sure it gets outside in time for your local municipality to compost it or turn it into mulch. Additionally it could become a home in the woods for wildlife if you take it there. If you are going artificial, make a plan to keep it a long time so that you are reusing it, not buying new every year and/or adding to the landfill.

Here are some other takes on the same concept:
Moral of the story…you need to do what works best for you. I love the smell and act of cutting down a real tree, but it’s not practical if you travel, and it is not safe have it up for a really long season.

The neat thing though, is it is not necessarily an "either/or" situation. There are other options too. Check out Treehugger's Katherine Martinko's 2021 article "How to Have the Greenest Christmas Tree Ever" on how to help your tree (whichever type you choose) have a lower environmental footprint. There's a great link in that article taking you to Green Moxie's 2020 article "35 DIY Christmas Trees made from Recycled Materials" with some fabulous and inventive ideas and photos that get you to Plan C for your Tree: Not Real, Not Fake, But Something Else! That's all the magic of this season--your imagination and some lights can carry you far. Might be worth consideration if you've yet to make your tree decision this year... or may have you planning ahead for your 2022 Holiday Season!

Photos from

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Seasonal Shopping: Gifts That Give Back

Finding that “just right” gift can be tough. 

Now, during this early- moving to mid-December time, the pressure is on. Email inboxes are filled up with marketing and sales galore... all while threats of global logistical issues are looming that package delivery might be slowed down. Time is ticking, you want to get gifts here if you're shopping by mail. You're wrestling the stores and the questions of  "should I mask or not" as talk of more Covid variants loom. Financially, you are working inside your gift-giving budget, trying to not break the bank, but meanwhile also trying to give a gift that sends the right message and speaks from the heart. 

None of this is an easy task! Holiday shopping is not for the faint of heart!

Additionally, you might also be wrestling slightly with the materialism side of life, wondering if the true meaning of Christmas is getting lost in the shuffle—especially if you are trying to spread that message to the little ones in your life too. Insert visions of the A Charlie Brown Christmas here!

But there are gifts out there that can possibly fit all the bills mentioned above. Gifts you'll enjoy, but they are also gifts that give back. Companies have made it part of their business model to include paying it forward where your purchase brings gifts not only to yourself but others. Some companies that fall in that category include: 
At least four of these companies were on my shopping list this holiday season.

In thinking about these companies, I knew there had to be more. And there are. Here are some links to lists of many more amazing companies that give back. If you are still shopping for that perfect gift, check these out! I'm sure there are tons more and I'd love to hear about them. 
For more thoughts on gift-giving visit...

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Clean Garage...and a Box of Legos!

Every season or two, it seems that garage of ours gets out of control and needs some major taming. Two weekends ago was our magical moment for that. Our weekends had kept us on the move most of the fall, so when our first one opened up right before Thanksgiving, and it was a nice one (weather-wise), it seemed like the time to jump. Additionally, my motivation in part was that if I wanted to get to our Christmas boxes for the holiday decorating, I needed to at least carve that path!

About 6 hours later....once most everything had come out to the yard and gotten put back in again, I finally wrapped it up. Always a daunting job (where I always feel a little bit like Indiana Jones facing the unknown), it always comes with major sense of triumph when accomplished.... not to mention a sore muscle or two!

A clean garage also always leaves me with a trunk-load of items to take to the Good Will and coats for the annual coat drive at school. This year did not disappoint. Additionally, it left me with a box of Legos.

Last year, we were able to gift our niece a giant box of our old Legos for Christmas. (My kids were major Lego kids). The perfect way to repurpose a great toy. But, even with that tub, there were still so many. We had sorted out the odd pieces, but given being both a Lego enthusiast and an environmentalist, I knew there had to be something else we could do with them. The major plan involved them sitting in my garage for a year. But the time had come for them to move beyond my garage.

Luckily, in addition to "reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle," I now can add "RePlay."

RePlay is one of the many sustainable elements of The Lego Company--namely, their brick recycling program.  I grabbed a mailing box that would accommodate my bricks, went to their website, and printed off a free mailing label (where they will cover the postage). After my Legos were all bundled up and postage affixed, I dropped it off at a FedEx store. Once the box o'bricks gets back to them, they are cleaned, then donated to classrooms and Boys & Girls Clubs. If the Legos don't satisfy their needs, they then are ground down to be made into new Legos. If that don't work (for whatever reason), they are can be reused as material for other things. This level of circular economy and returning items back to their creator company is the ultimate gift that keeps giving!

Standing in my doorway, looking into my clean garage is definitely a "feel good" experience. But equally warm and rewarding is knowing that my time was well spent packaging up my kids' well-loved Legos for someone else who would love them just as much. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving, and they are much better placed than in a recycle bin or landfill!!

To learn more about RePlay and Lego's Sustainability practices, visit their website.

Some stats about their donations so far: 

Photos from my camera and compiled into Lego Replay logo from replay lego recycling. Screencast statistics from on November 24, 2021.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

1000 Hours Outside Revisited

I've written about the concept of "1000 hours outside" before, and for the last several summers, I've tracked my time outdoors as well. Winter weather (and not being a major fan of the cold), wounded knees, and work always get in my way of really diving in on the same level that I can in the summer. 

But, perhaps the 2 items below may be able to help me with that!

Ginny Yurich, founder of 1000 Hours Outside's blog and website, has had a bit of a brand explosion lately. It's not a surprise given that the outdoors are the safest place to be given Covid, and that messaging has been strong for over a year and a half. Additionally, stress seems at an all-time high given the pandemic and more. Outdoors is an excellent place to decompress, recalibrate, and find your center in an often upside-down world. The health benefits of nature for mental, spiritual, and physical health are undeniable.

So kudos to Ginny for bringing these two new digital items into the world to help inspire us to get OUT in the world, especially when it's a little chilly out there!

The 1000 Hours Outside Podcast

Whether you find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or their YouTube Channel, you can soak in the benefits of the outdoors while you are cooking, cleaning, driving, or more in their podcast. Currently in their second season, here is a playlist of what you can find there.

The 1000 Hours Outside App

They have always had paper trackers on their website, but now you can go about tracking your outdoor habits on your favorite device using their app. Available on both the Apple & Google Play App Stores for $2.99, you can do it all digitally. A small price to pay for greater health and wellness!!

Podcast list image from, logo from