I don't know about you, but personally, it pains me to see the giant garbage bag full of wrapping paper, tissue paper and boxes that gets hauled out of the room at the end of most Yuletide parties. Here are some ideas for reducing the garbage and making your Yuletide even more meaningful in the process.

Books Instead of Greeting Cards

Greeting cards tend to get thrown away or stuck in a box and hoarded for years. Unless your recipient loves greeting cards, consider tucking a small, attractive book into a ribbon and write a greeting on the inside cover. This way, your recipient gets an extra gift with a meaningful inscription to remember you by. If your recipient isn't a reader, you could use a small lined or unlined journal, a date book, an address book or a photo album. If they are more into music than writing, a CD can work too. (Or even a DVD.)

You could also try a fun bathroom book. Your book could hold a clue for what's inside the packaging. For instance if you're giving someone a bartender's kit, you could also give them Love Elixirs: Titania's Book of Romantic Potions. Or the book you choose can send a message to the receiver. You could go for something generic holiday like A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings or go for something more specific. Particularly sweet for a lover might be a copy of Shakespear's Sonnets and Goodnight Moon is lovely for a very small child. A collection of poetry is always nice, especially for us Pagans who are always looking for new chants. The Pagan's Muse: Words of Ritual, Invocation, and Inspiration is a great choice.

You can also make your own books out of photographs taken with you and your recipient the previous year, or even a mini scrap book containing stubs from the movies, amusement parks, plays and concerts you and your friend attended together. My dear friend came across a bunch of notes I'd written to her in school and copied all the poems from them into a book bound with a ribbon one year. I cried and cried! I'd forgotten all those off-the-cuff poems!

Yes books cost more than greeting cards, but they also mean more and they last longer. Choosing a book gives you the opportunity to use your creativity and shows that you put real thought into your selection and it is a bonus gift that will be treasured for years to come.

Rethink Your Wrapping

Instead of using plain old wrapping paper (boring!) to wrap your gifts this year, consider presenting them in a reusable wrapping. Your wrapper becomes a bonus gift and the Earth wins! Here are a few ideas.

If your recipient is a crafter he or she may appreciate the gift of fabric scraps to create with. So instead of wrapping your gift with paper, wrap it with cloth. You can get remnants at the fabric store inexpensively and can select from a variety of festive and more practical colors and prints. Be sure to pick up some safety pins to fasten your wrapping and some festive ribbons as well.

Instead of paper gift bags, use fabric bags. You can make or purchase bags in all sizes to fit your gift perfectly. To make a super-easy gift bag, just purchase some of the above-mentioned fabric remnants and use pinking shears to cut two pieces to a size about and inch wider than your gift on all sides but the top, 3 inches wider there. Place the two pieces facing one another and stitch around the bottom and sides, flip the bag right side out, slip your gift inside and tie the top shut with a coordinating ribbon.

Create fabulous re-usable gift boxes! Collect shoe boxes and paper boxes throughout the year and cover them with cloth or wrapping paper. Use a pretty ribbon to hold the lid on!

Give Homemade Gifts.

Homemade gifts are from the heart and isn't that what gift-giving is all about? Consider a handmade scarf, a purse made from an old pair of jeans, a hand made stepping stone for your favorite gardener, a special photo in a hand made frame, or that all-time favorite, delicious baked goods! Consider also jams & jelly's, herbal oils and vinegars and maybe something you canned from this year's garden. (Hint: Ma! I'd like some canned tomatoes please!)

Check out more ideas at http://familyfun.go.com/christmas/homemade-christmas-gifts/

Decorate A Tree for the Birds

If you've got a special evergreen tree in your yard, heck even if you don't, consider decorating a tree outdoors as well as (or rather instead of) indoors. You can make all kinds of decorations that will delight your local wildlife (so make sure the tree in question is far enough away from human habitations that the racoons and rodents won't upset anyone's sensibilities). String dried berries and popcorn on a bit of twine for garland. For ornaments, cut out shapes in slices of bread with cookie cutters, poke holes near the top and thread a bit of yarn through to make a loop, spread with peanut butter or suet and sprinkle with birdseed, then let them dry a few days so they are nice and firm. You can also spread peanut butter or suet into pine cones and roll them in birdseed and then tie a bit of yarn to hang. Dried orange and apple slices are also cute decorations that your local wildlife will surely enjoy.

If you're hankering for a bit of twinkle, consider some solar powered LEDs.


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