Now that all the gifts are unwrapped, you may be looking at a floor filled with old wrapping paper, boxes and holiday cards. Before you grab a trashcan—and call us to give your home an end-of-season clean–consider upcycling these materials into new and useful items that you can use throughout the new year.
Shipping Boxes to Magazine Racks
We love this idea from Instructables: Create a magazine rack out of a medium size cardboard shipping box and old newspapers (comics and movie ads create the best designs).
Holiday Cards to Ornaments
The beautiful DIY Christmas Ornaments from All Things Paper are made from a flower-painting book, but colorful holiday cards will work too. Punch 1-inch circles from your cards and adhere circles bottom to top around a ball ornament using a glue gun. This is a great way to bring life to an old ornament.
Wrapping Paper to Desk Accessories
Looking for some chic additions to your home or office desk? Look no further than the wrapping paper crumpled up on your living room floor. Smooth it out the best you can and wrap it around a cleaned out soup can—the wrinkles in the paper will actually give this piece some texture. You can also wrap this around a bigger object—such as a coffee can—and use it to store utensils on your kitchen counter.
Chip Bags to Party Tassels
Thank you, Paging Supermom–this is a great way to reuse the chip and snack bags we go through during our holiday parties (and plan to go through for New Year’s Eve!). Once you wash out the bags, you will cut and twist them into fun party tassels that can be used on gifts or as party decorations. This trick also works for tissue paper.
Shirt Box to 3-D Star
Trace and cut out two stars from an old shirt box using this template from Grey Luster Girl. Once you score both stars from the tips to the indented parts and push them out on the score lines, you glue the two stars together and paint. You can also use old cereal boxes—a great craft for kids on a snowy day!
Talk to us: How will you reuse your holiday paper waste?
Yes, it is the end of 2014 and as you begin to implement the business plans you have already made for 2015, we want to challenge you to make 5 resolutions—from some of our favorite business reads—that will keep your company in the green all year long.
Switch to post-consumer waste (PCW)
Whenever possible, skip paper entirely, but if you have to print, make sure you are using eco-friendly paper. Well-intentioned businesses may look for a recycling symbol on a box of paper, but this is an unregulated designation. Only PCW paper is made entirely from the paper we place in our recycling bins each day. Making PCW recycled paper uses 45% less energy and creates half the waste of the traditional papermaking process. Purchasing products labeled as 100% PCW ensures you are using papers with the least impact. If 100% is not available, look for options with as much PCW content as possible, and don’t forget to recycle all your paper scraps instead of sending them to the landfill.
Engage your employees
Environmental Protection Agency
Employee buy-in is critical for success. Share your vision of what you want your business to become with your employees, involve them upfront, and ask for suggestions on how to green their activities. There are many ways to encourage employee participation. Depending on the size of your business, consider creating a green team to head up sustainability initiatives. Provide rewards for good ideas and incentives for environmentally- friendly behavior. Perhaps most important, as the owner or manager, it is vital that you “walk the talk” and demonstrate green behavior as an example to your employees.
Buy promotional products that directly encourage green behavior
For example, instead of buying branded bottled water in disposable bottles — a growing trend — order branded reusable coffee mugs or branded reusable water bottles. Not only will you avoid adding to the over 2.5 million plastic water bottles that are used every hour by people in the United States alone, but your marketing message will be put in front of people’s eyes for far longer, as your coffee mugs and/or water bottles will be reused.
Conserve human energy
Consider that healthy, energetic employees will be more creative and productive. Help to keep your team healthy by creating a safe, non-toxic environment. Serve sustainable brain food at meetings: nuts, organic fruits and vegetables, and even dark chocolate all play a role in maintaining mental acuity.
Add personal benefits to green marketing message
Saving the planet is a big promise and a meaningful one to many consumers. But it will have more teeth if you relate that claim to a personal benefit, such as improving one’s health or saving money. For example, food that’s organically grown means that fewer pesticides and herbicides that will damage the environment are used–an invaluable benefit. Yet the essential bottom line for many organic food shoppers is the assurance that fewer harmful chemicals will find their way into the bodies of their children and families.
Of course, we think one of the best resolutions you can make for this New Year is to hire an eco-friendly cleaning company. Not only will this help you maintain a clean and healthy environment for customers and employees, but it will go a long way towards helping you achieve some of your other green goals.
Talk to us: What is one of your business resolutions for 2015?
If you are busy cleaning up your home for family and friends (psst…you can call us to do this holiday task for you!), you may need some musical motivation. We have created the ultimate music list for cleaning your home this holiday season. Be sure to checkout the artist that goes along with the title—the versions we have selected will keep you rockin’ (and cleanin’) around the Christmas tree all season long.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dean Martin
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen
- Jingle Bell Rock, Hall and Oates
- Sleigh Ride, The Ronettes
- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams
- Feliz Navidad, Jose Feliciano
- A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, John Mellencamp
- All I Want for Christmas, Mariah Carey
- The Man with the Bag, Kay Starr
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Barenaked Ladies
- That’s What Christmas Means to Me, Stevie Wonder
- Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney
- Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses
- Last Christmas, Wham!
Talk to us: What holiday song do you play while getting your home ready for company?
As a busy NYC working mom, Ashley Tyrner didn’t always have time to make a weekly trip to her local farmers market to pick up the freshest local and organic items for her kitchen. She wanted to create a service that would allow even the busiest of people to enjoy the benefits of local and organic food.
Ashley started Farmbox Direct with a vision of how food SHOULD be: fresh, local (when Mother Nature permits), and free from pesticides! Having grown up in a family of farmers and living on a farm, she spent summers working at her uncle’s compost in the Midwest, learning how to live off the land, and the benefits of local and organic food.
After she became a mom she really began to pay very close attention to exactly what was in the food that not only she was eating, but also what she was feeding her daughter. She stepped down from the corporate world, and went back to her roots—creating a company that delivers healthy, organic, local & affordable food right to the door of people on the East Coast—from New Hampshire to Washington, D.C.
Towards the goal of delivering fresh, local and organic food to its customers, Farmbox Direct only works with farms that use zero pesticides on the produce they grow, their artisanal items come directly from the artisan, and all eggs are cage free and free range. Ashley personally hand picks every farm, artisan and vendor they deal with—if it’s not USDA Certified Organic, they do not carry it.
In addition, every Farmbox delivery box is eco-friendly with biodegradable insulation. They encourage customers to recycle all boxes and packing material.
Strategies You Should Steal:
Discover What You’re Missing
When busy, single mom Ashley Tyrner couldn’t find the time to make a weekly trip to her local farmers market, she decided to create a service that would deliver the fresh, local products she wanted to doorsteps of busy parents like herself. Think of your own lifestyle—what product or service do you wish was created to make your life easier—or healthier? If you are having difficulty finding the one thing that may be missing from your world, chances are others are missing it too.
Gain Some Business Sense
It takes more than passion to create a successful business. Ashley spent time working in the fashion industry where she honed her business chops—turning Ceasar Galindo into a successful fashion brand. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn the art of business—from accounting to marketing to finding funding. Everything you learn outside of your passion area can go a long way towards making that passion a successful business.
We asked the elves in Santa’s workshop to give us some of their best ideas for stuffing our stockings with eco-friendly options. From paint made from veggies (yum!) to reusable water bottles with customized personalities, these five items will be the perfect addition to your Christmas list this year.
Wee Can Too—Natural Finger Paint
This veggie/fruit-based (think blueberries, pumpkin & spinach), eco-friendly paint comes in four separate cups—you just add water to the powder and your little artist can create his or her masterpiece.
Blue Q—Coin Purse
These small reusable baggies feature fun artwork and are both lead-free and sustainably made by taking old grain sacks and plastic water bottles, grinding them up, heating them into a type of thread and weaving them into a 95% post-consumer recycled polypropylene material. These are great as a coin purse for older children or a snack bag for younger tots.
These crayons are made of beeswax and fruit and vegetable extracts and are designed to look like rocks kids would find outside in the backyard or park. These eco-friendly crayons will never lose their point because your little ones will create new points as they draw.
Green Kid Crafts—Basil & Sprout Garden
Kids can grow their own organic basil and organic alfalfa sprout garden—it’s a great way to teach them about plants and get them interested in eating healthy. Each kit comes with two eco-friendly, compostable cups, seeds, peat pod, cheesecloth, rubber band and instructions.
Vapur—Quencher Reusable Water Bottle
These small water bottles are the perfect size for kids’ backpacks and lunch boxes. Quenchers are made from a BPA free plastic that is taste-free and odor resistant. Each bottle comes with three sticker sheets of facial expressions and add-ons—allowing kids to bring them to life!
Talk to us: What is your favorite item to find in your stocking?
Hanukkah, which begins the evening of December 16th, is a time when families come together to reflect upon their Jewish heritage and culture. While Hanukkah is steeped in tradition—from the gifts to the food—it may be easier than you think to make this holiday more sustainable and eco-friendly. We have taken three key areas of this eight-night celebration—the Menorah, the gifts and the food—and have given you some tips for making it a little more green.
For this year’s Festival of Lights, use beeswax candles that are paraffin and toxin free and shine up your Menorah by using a DIY natural cleaning solution made from a mixture of water, baking soda, salt and white vinegar. If you don’t have a Menorah that has been handed down from generation to generation, consider some eco-friendly options from Sustainable Baby Steps before buying a new one.
- Look into buying an antique or secondhand Menorah.
- Borrow one from family members or friends.
- Make your own upcycled version—Etsy.com has some great ideas.
Second-hand or vintage presents are a great eco-friendly option, but you can also find some greener gift-giving ideas by looking for products made from organic and sustainable materials. There is a great list on Inhabitots that includes unique gifts for your celebration such as upcycled dreidels, Hanukkah-shaped recycled crayons and fair trade chocolate gelt. An even better way to celebrate your eight nights? Commit your family to doing eight nights of service—donating your time and/or money to organizations that are making a difference in your community.
The Hanukkah dinner is one of the most exciting parts of this holiday celebration and many find it difficult to make the traditional recipes more eco-friendly. With potatoes and root vegetables often in abundance during the winter, check with your local farmers markets and buy local ingredients whenever possible, use organic oils to fry your latkes and sufganiyot (or bake them!) and consider modifying some of your traditional recipes to be more vegan—such as using soy- or almond-based cheese in your blintzes.
Talk to us: How will you be making Hanukkah more green this year?
image courtesy of flickr/BY CC 2.0
Make Your Office Cleanup Easy and Enjoy the After Party
Celebrating the season with your co-workers is a fun tradition for companies big and small. And while there is often a lot of time spent on planning the end-of-year festivities, the office party clean up is often a task that is overlooked. If you’re in charge if this year’s office holiday party, we have some tips that will make the cleanup easy and allow you to enjoy yourself during and AFTER the party.
The best way to ensure your conference room isn’t a wreck after the office party is to start with a clean space. Hire a professional cleaning company to come in and give your office a quick clean. Our “Jungle” cleaning service was actually created to help companies prepare—and clean up after—special events such as a holiday party or networking event
Start Cleaning during the Party
Your after-party cleanup will go much quicker if you start doing a little pick up before the last employee leaves. According to a post from Walmart.com, this task serves three purposes. “One, it sends a quiet signal to guests that the party is winding down. Second, it will most likely spur some guests to offer to help. Thirdly, of course, it gets the cleanup underway so there is less to do after the guests leave.”
Make It Easy for Others to Cleanup
Place empty trays throughout the party where people can put their dirty dishes when they are finished, taking full trays to the company kitchen. Make sure there are trash receptacles and recycling bins located in areas where disposables will be used such as the bar and buffet. Double- or triple-line the trash cans, so there is always a clean bag once a full bag is removed.
Keep Cleaning Tools Handy
Keep an eco-friendly cleaner such as our Ecospirit All-Purpose Cleaner in the office kitchen so you can easily grab it for spills as needed. You may want to stock your kitchen with white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice—all great natural stain removers—so stains do not set in on furniture or floors. Also consider having a hand vacuum and/or broom nearby to catch fallen food before it gets crushed into the carpet.
Focus on the Essentials
Just as you would with a home party cleanup, focus on the big items right away. Pick up food and drinks, pre-treat stains and let them soak, store leftovers in containers in the company fridge (make sure people will be there the next day to eat them—leaving food in the fridge for several days is never a good idea), wash plates and glasses, take out trash and recycling and gather up items such as decorations in one area so you can put them away in the morning.
Talk to us: Are you having an office party this year? We would love to hear your plans for throwing a company-wide holiday shindig.
Shopping green is a lot like trying to eat healthy—there’s so much information coming at you that it’s tough to know the best choices to make. Let’s face it, not all green products are created equal and sometimes, additional cost isn’t truly worth it.
Before you head to the mall—or the computer—to begin your holiday shopping, keep these tips in mind when looking for eco-friendly products for your friends and family.
Cosmetics. Wondering if it makes sense to spend extra for cosmetic products marked “organic”? The answer is, it’s complicated. Read labels in entirety to see whether the majority of ingredients are organic, or if there’s only one or two that allow the label to say the product is organic. Learn how your favorite cosmetics rate with GoodGuide, a site that performs a scientific rating on products considering a full range of health, environmental and social components.
Fabric. The pesticides used to grow textile crops like cotton are riddled with bad reputations—the EPA says seven of the 15 chemicals used are possible, likely, probable or known carcinogens. Organic versions are safer for clothes, towels and sheets you and your loved ones use, just make sure you only purchase brands that boast the Global Organic Textile (GOTS) label or the USDA organic seal.
Biodegradable vs. Recycled. For many of us, picking up products with either of these labels is a common occurrence, but we might not realize that in order for our biodegradable selections to actually biodegrade, they must be composted. That’s tough in cities where the practice is less common or accessible. Opt for recycled products over biodegradable when you’re shopping or get involved with a community composting effort to help biodegradable products break down. Find NYC composting information at NYC Recycles.
Look for Fair Trade. Companies that support fair trade are known for how they ethically treat their employees—making sure all workers receive a living wage and ensure safe working environments. However, any product that is certified as fair trade must also meet a set of environmental standards set by an international labeling organization.
Buy Used. One of the greatest ways to help the planet this holiday season is to purchase some of your gifts from secondhand stores or thrift shops—this is especially great for toys. Look for gently used items that still have all their working parts and pieces and avoid items that are hand-knitted, have chipped paint or do not have easy access to batteries. Another thrift store bonus: You might find an item that brings back a great memory of your own childhood—sharing that as a gift with your sibling or parent will be a great holiday moment.
Talk to us: What is your strategy for keeping things eco-friendly this gift giving season?
image courtesy of flickr CC/DavidPorter