The art of post-holiday recycling

We can now heave a sigh of relief: no more holiday feasts to whip up, no more parties to go to, no more crazy Christmas shopping downtown, and no more gifts to wrap and distribute. Thank goodness, the Yuletide madness is finally over.

With the hectic holidays still fresh in our minds, the question is, have you been wise in handling some stuff you’ve purchased or have received by default last Christmas? Have you done any recycling at all in the name of good stewardship?

If yes, then well and good. If not, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your post-holiday habits and be less wasteful. It’s not yet too late to learn from the economical ways of our wise grandmothers, who had gone through a lot during the Depression era.

Here are some general post-holiday recycling tips, courtesy of Freitag:

• Gather all your leftover Christmas paper items. Put all the used (as long as they are still in good condition) and unused gift wraps, tags, cards, bows and ribbons all in one storage box and label it well, so that when the next Christmastime arrives, you’ll know where to get those holiday paper goods. By the way, the key to recycling used gift wraps is to open your gifts carefully the next time you receive a present from somebody; and not just carelessly tearing up those nice, colorful gift wraps as tradition dictates. Then fold neatly those used gift wraps and put in your to-be-recycled Christmas storage box. Teach your kids to do this, too. It will save you a lot of paper — and money.

• Keep those boxes. Whether they are shoeboxes (maybe you received a pair of shoes last Christmas), shipment boxes, or carton gift boxes, make sure you just don’t throw them away. Boxes are always good for storing things up — stuff like used Christmas tree ornaments (see related tip number one), photos, postcards, and electronic items. Plus, you can also recycle these boxes when you need to wrap up a present on any occasion (birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, etc.). Or if you are an active Ebay seller, these boxes will come in handy every time you need to ship items locally or internationally. So, keep those boxes!

• Keep those tin cans and glass jars, too. The same principle applies here. Tin cars and glass jars, just like boxes, make great containers. So don’t discard those Christmas tin cans and glass jars. You can use tin cans for storing food items like cookies, candies, or tea bags. And depending on the shape of the actual tin can, you can even use it as a sewing kit, why not? As for the glass jars, they can be resused to preserve homemade jams, pickles, and yes, halo halo ingredients.

• Reuse shopping bags. Again the same principle: keep those used shopping bags, whether they are made of plastic or paper, and reuse them. For what? For shopping! Every time you go to the supermarket, bring a used shopping bag to carry your groceries. Paper shopping bags can be recycled as gifts wraps, too. Just cut them up and wrap your present in them. It’s art for practical art’s sake. Just make sure the quality of the shopping bag is still good, though — not overly crumpled or anything like that. Plastic shopping bags, meanwhile, can be used again when you are giving a present to a family member or friend whom you are going to meet outside on a rainy or wintry day. It protects the paper-wrapped gift inside.

• Use those greetings cards as future Christmas decors. Okay, maybe you have not really received a deluge of physical Christmas cards in your mailbox last December in the advent of e-cards. But if you have, well, don’t trash them as some practical (read: non-sentimental) people do. You can recycle them later on as Christmas decors. For instance, you can string them together and, voila, you have an instant Christmas festoon — and a personalized one at that. Or you can simply decorate your Christmas tree or your mantle with a well-chosen set of greeting cards come Christmastime. You will save yourself a lot of money by doing this. No need to buy anymore those fragile silver or golden balls and glitter string decors that are not that cheap actually.

• ‘Regift’ unused and unwanted Christmas presents. If you have received some Christmas gifts that you do not really need (maybe because you already have it, or simply because it does not fit your lifestyle) — e.g. receiving a perfume you’re allergic to or getting a blouse that’s not your size — and therefore can’t use, then you can give them (presents) to somebody else. Just make sure that the items are in great condition and usable, and that the person you are giving it to is not in any way related to the giver. And yes, some people do take such unwanted presents to what they call the White Elephant Gift Exchange.

This post-holiday recycling list is by no means comprehensive. There are still tons of things you can do to reuse stuff and not letting them go to waste. You just need to let those creative juices flow freely.

With the global financial downturn, we all need to be extra wise in handling all our resources. Learn a thing or two from Grandma.

So, guys, let’s use the R word more often these days: recycle, recycle, recycle!


Holiday gift ideas for the budget-conscious

‘Tis the season to be thrifty, you might be telling yourself. Many are already feeling the pinch — or the punch, for those who have already lost their jobs and homes — of the current economic crisis. And indeed, it’s time to tighten the belt some more.

And here comes the Christmas holidays, when commercialism is usually at its all-time high. Will consumers still be buying gifts for their loved ones at fever pitch to mark the merry season? Probably not. Already, there have been media reports of a slowdown in retail store sales almost everywhere. It appears that people are putting off purchases this time around.

But if you’re the type who just couldn’t — or wouldn’t — forego the Christmas gift-giving tradition ‘just because,’ Freitag has this to say: Be creative! Gifts need not be bought from the store all the time. A little imagination, plus some DIY (do-it-yourself) skills, will do the trick.

Here are some basic Christimas gift ideas for the budget-conscious:

• Make your own gifts. If you’re good at knitting, for example, you can knit scarves, gloves or socks for your loved ones (of course, this is for those who live in four-season countries). Or you can bake cakes and cookies and give these homemade goodies as Christmas presents. You can also indulge in some paper crafts and design your own decorative boxes (using shoeboxes) that can be used as fancy containers of CDs, DVDs and photos. Hopefully, the people who will receive your labor-of-love gifts will appreciate the extra effort you put into the task.

• Offer your personalized services. Services are as good as products. Depending on your skills and talents, you can offer services ranging from ad copy writing, taking photos, and teaching a foreign language to cooking/baking, sewing, and repairing stuff (cars, clocks, watches, and what-have-you). The idea is, offer services based on yours talents and skills.

• Design and print out your own gift certificates. This is related to tips 1 and 2; but it comes in voucher form. Using bond paper and your computer keyboard (or pen, if you’re technically challenged), design a set of gift coupons for your family and friends. For instance, you can give your spouse the following gift certificate: This entitles ___________________ (fill in the blank with your spouse’s, child’s, or friend’s name) to a one-hour foot massage at home. Valid till December 24, 2009. Or you can give this gift coupon to your best friend: This entitles _________________ to five hours of Adobe Photoshop lessons. Valid till December 24, 2009. These are just examples. Of course, you can customize your gift certificates based on your personal skills and the actual needs of your family and friends.

• Give ‘time gifts.’ Sometimes, spending quality time with your family is the best gift you can ever give to them — not just on Christmas Day, mind you. In this age of busyness, a number of career-driven people compensate the lack of time they spend with their family by showering them with expensive gifts. However, their familial presence, especially on special occasions, is actually more important than the actual presents. Studies show that children value more the time they spend with their beloved parents than the material things they receive from them. So spend more time with your loved ones this holiday season. That, in itself, is already a priceless gift.

• Recycle gifts. This is a delicate topic. Some people are not open to the idea of recycling gifts (i.e. giving away a present you have received to another person), and regard it as something unethical. However, others do this actively out of pure pragmatism. A newspaper editor, for instance, may opt to give away the tons of new books or IT products he/she receives from corporate publicists to his/her family and friends just because he/she has more than enough books or software products, and his recipients are more than happy to have them. As long as there’s no sentimental value attached to the gifts, many deem this gift-giving style acceptable. What’s important, these pragmatists say, is that the recycled gifts are all in pristine condition (read: unused) and something that would really be appreciated by the would-be recipients. (Note: One should not recycle gifts as a form of ‘convenience dumping’ activity that would save him/her lots of money. The giver should always think hard if the item is in line with what the recipient needs or wants. So you don’t give a book on good parenting to a menopausal spinster or a Logitech mouse to a non-computer user.)

These are just some cost-cutting tips for those who still have the resources to give presents this holiday season.

But if we can get rid of this Christmas gift-giving tradition altogether in this time of economic gloom, then well and good. After all, as the cliche goes, the best things in life are free. Our love, care, and presence should be sufficient enough for our family and friends all-year round.