Archive for December 2010

Happy Green Holidays – Top 10 List

December 3, 2010

Yes, I’ve been away from my blog for a while.  I hope you haven’t given up on me completely.  Today I want to focus on having an Eco-Friendly, Green Holiday – whether that’s Christmas or Hanukkah or anything else.

Today I want to focus on having an Eco-Friendly, Green Holiday – whether that’s Christmas or Hanukkah or anything else.

In many cultures, the holiday season seems to be as much a time for consumerism as for celebrating the “reason for the season!” (Remember Miracle on 34th Street?)

Of course, one of the best ways to have a Green holiday is to minimize your purchases altogether. That may not be practical or even possible for some, however. The next best thing is to make smart choices in your gifts, decorations, wrapping paper, and other holiday purchases.

Below are my TOP TEN favorite tips for respecting the environment while truly enjoying the holidays.

1. If you put up a Christmas tree, purchase a live tree with its roots intact, and plant it in your yard after putting the decorations away. To properly care for your tree after the snow is gone, use a sprinkler timer, a rain gauge, and soil moisture probe.

2. Make ornaments and other decorations from items you have around your house, and live greenery from your yard. This can be a great family project if you have kids! There are many eco-friendly, non-toxic kids’ craft items available, like modeling dough, glue, soy crayons, markers, and paint.

3. If you are in the market for new lights, choose LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights, widely available at hardware and home improvement stores, as well as bargain stores. They are even available as Solar Powered for outdoor use! (I really need to get my hands on some of these!) LED lights are more costly at first but pay off in the long run. And they last a REALLY long time so you don’t have to fight with the frustration of dead bulbs every year. Curious to know just how much energy you can save? A Kill-A-Watt meter will tell you!

4. Recycle your Christmas cards. One of my favorite cards ever was sent to me by my parents a couple of years ago. It was a card I had sent THEM a few years earlier. It has a picture of two beautiful golden retrievers on the front, along with the text “Merry Christmas to two wonderful parents.” I loved the card because it was a creative way to recycle, AND it was very appropriate, with our menagerie of 4-legged “kids.” I STILL have this one stuck on my refrigerator and it makes me smile year-round. While this may not be for everyone, it may spark some creativity. Another way of recycling your cards is to turn them into gift tags. One reader sent me another tip.  Cut up old cards and turn them into bookmarks to give as gifts.  Use those fancy craft scissors to give them pretty edges.  How clever is that?! Make sure the cards you do buy are made from recycled paper.

5. Why buy gift wrap when you have so many creative options that don’t cost much or that you can make from things you may already have? An age-old strategy is using the colorful Sunday comics from the newspaper. You can also use brown paper bags or craft paper and decorate them with pretty ribbons, stamps, etc. Many people make small boxes out of their old Christmas cards. Or maybe you have a stash of colorful fabric from old sewing projects, or maybe you can even wrap the gift in a beautiful scarf?  How about getting a reusable shopping bag and using it like a gift basket? The Green Irene Eco-Tote comes in many colors and two sizes so you can use it for a variety of gifts: small or large. Then the recipient has 2 gifts in one!

6. As for gifts, you can find some wonderful things at the thrift store. Give an old item a new life with someone who will love and appreciate (and USE) it!  Clothing is a popular gift item, too. Buy organic and sweatshop-free clothes when possible.

8. Give live plants as gifts. Along with the beauty of live, green plants, you give a bit of fresh air. Plants process Carbon Dioxide and give off fresh Oxygen. Many also are great for removing toxins from the air. Just be sure to do your homework, especially if the person has pets, as many plants can be harmful or even deadly to animals. Speaking of air quality, here are some more great gift ideas to help your friends breathe easier.

8. Sometimes the best gift isn’t an actual gift.  Most people have some cause they support – animal welfare, environment, health issues, etc  – so give a donation in their name.  They will love knowing that their favorite organization has received a generous donation, and they didn’t receive more stuff to find a place for in their homes.

9. Give the people you care about products that will help them live a greener, more sustainable life. Give a Green Home Makeover where a Green Irene Consultant (Me, in Northern Arizona) visits the person and goes through their home, making suggestions for ways they can decrease their carbon footprint. Another great gift idea for the conservation-minded is a pre-made gift bag filled with all sorts of products to help the recipient go green.

10. Fair Trade and Sustainability go hand in hand. Help struggling artisans around the world by purchasing beautiful gifts and jewelry for your friends and family – and maybe something for yourself! Click the green button on the left that says “Online Catalog.”

For more great ideas for advice, products, and sales, visit:

Of course, these tips are just the start! Use your creativity and keep the earth in mind this year. Feel free to send me your great ideas, too!


Jo Starr
Green Starr Makeovers
Twitter: @jostarr13
Phone: (928) 607-1331

The Organic Consumers’ Association and Fair Trade

December 3, 2010

The Organic Consumers’ Association (OCA – is one of my favorite resources for info about organic foods and other products.  They are also a supporter of Fair Trade, which ensures that the farmers and artisans around the world receive a fair price for their products, contributing to much needed community development, family security, and environmental stewardship.  Here is one recent article from the OCA:

Fair World Project: New Voice for Fair Trade Movement in Organic Sector and Beyond

* Organic Consumers Association, September 10, 2010

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) launched the Fair World Project (FWP) today to promote fair trade in commerce, especially in organic production systems in developing countries as well as at home, and to protect the term “fair trade” from dilution and misuse for mere PR purposes. The OCA’s new project fills the critical need for a watchdog of misleading fair trade claims, and a cheerleader for dedicated fair trade mission-driven companies. Through FWP, OCA will focus on promoting projects that connect the environmental and health benefits of organic agriculture with the social benefits derived from fair trade.

The Fair World Project’s inaugural publication of For a Better World will debut at the Fair Trade Futures Conference, September 10-12 at the Boston Marriott Hotel-Quincy. Fifty thousand copies will be distributed to fair trade outlets such as co-ops and organic markets nationwide. The publication features candid articles on the fair trade movement, including different approaches to fair trade certification, exceptional fair trade projects abroad and at home in the West, as well as how to reintegrate fair trade back into the organic movement.

“As demand from conscious consumers expands the market for fairly traded products we must ensure that claims made by companies hold up to fair trade standards and that marketing and labeling of these products are accurate,” says Dana Geffner, Executive Director of the Fair World Project. “With new fair trade certifiers joining the movement, seasoned certifiers enabling questionable opportunistic fair trade claims and “fairwashing” practices more common, the Fair World Project aims to discuss and dissect,” adds Geffner.

The FWP intends to encourage critical thinking rather than blind faith regarding fair trade claims and certification schemes. Through publications, events, and targeted campaigns the group articulates and advances the issues involved in fair trade, with the goal of helping consumers, business owners, employees and activists make informed decisions about where and on what to spend their money and resources – to build a better and more just world. The FWP’s new website provides a space and forum where consumers can discuss issues within the Fair Trade movement, ask tough questions and share information.

“We will celebrate corporations that are adopting fair trade into their business models, but at the same time hold ‘fair-washers’ accountable and insist on keeping fair trade’s integrity. We will make sure fair trade certifiers and membership organizations maintain high standards to keep fair trade meaningful, not just in the wording of their standards but also in their inspection and certification processes. We will pressure our schools, employers and other institutions to adopt fair trade purchasing practices with regard to food and other consumer products.

“We will confront corporations, especially those already dealing in certified organic products, and government agencies everywhere to compel them to implement fair trade practices in their supply chains. We look forward to a day when all trade is fair,” adds Geffner.

To learn more about Fair Trade, visit these sites:
Fair Trade Federation:
Jolica Fair Trade Jewelry and Accessories:

Jo Starr
My Blog: