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Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

Sarah Grimm dreams of a green Christmas, one with gift wrap and decorations made by hand using materials found around the home. And one without a trash can stuffed with excessive packaging and disposable cups and plates.

As education coordinator for BRING Recycling, Grimm has plenty of ideas for how to make the holidays a low-waste affair - and more meaningful.

"There's actually a little bit of a movement going on," she said. "People are noticing the holidays aren't as fun."

But reach back to those fond memories from childhood, Grimm suggests. It was the traditions - stringing popcorn and cranberries, making ornaments that last for years - that made the holidays so special, she said.

"We would make our own Christmas cards," she said. "For me and my siblings, it was just a fantastic experience. Because truly the essence of Christmas is togetherness."

Grimm leads workshops on holiday crafts and recycling each Wednesday night at the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts, or MECCA, in Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood.

She merrily shares ideas to reduce, reuse and recycle, taking a bite out of the 5 million extra tons of garbage produced during the holidays in America. Some are her own creations. Some she has picked up from others, such as the translucent snowflakes easily fashioned from a handful of plastic six-pack holders.

Wrap a little fabric around a Ben and Jerry's ice cream bar box and you've made a durable, decorative box. Images from old greeting cards can be cut out and used as gift tags.

Instead of buying a new roll of gift wrap, Grimm will use an old map or a poster for a concert.

And she makes her own fabric gift bag, sewing in a draw string or Velcro closure on top.

To avoid wandering around stores in a daze, searching for gifts that would suit a loved one, try making - or at least assembling - a unique present, she said.

Some people are into making and bottling their own lotions. Another popular item involves filling a Mason jar with the dry ingredients for homemade soup or brownies. Tape on the recipe, throw on a bow, and it's a memorable handcrafted gift.

To cut down on all the paper and postage costs of mailing a stack of greeting cards, Grimm recommends the personal photo postcard or the increasingly popular customized e-mail card.

Another habit that's good for the environment all year long is to look for products that contain recycled content, Grimm said. And if it's not obvious, ask a store clerk or the manufacturer. They may not know, but merely asking will get them thinking about what their customers want, she said.

"It is a difficult habit to get in," she admitted. "It's just not on people's radar screen."

And make sure you buy products packaged in recyclable materials, she emphasizes.

"Your garbage can is going to show the difference."

Grimm said the frantic pace this time of year may feel like a barrier to putting a sustainable twist on the holidays.

"It's not just time management, it's a priority issue," she said. "Some of those things nipping at your heels might not really be priorities. Just turn off that TV. I'll tell you, that's a lot of time. Inspire the kids to do a project that takes them away from the TV."


Learn how to make holiday crafts from recycled materials every Wednesday, through Dec. 17, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts, or MECCA, 449 Blair Blvd. Information: 302-1810.


Buy concentrates and bulk goods and look for refillable containers.

Make decorations from recycled and reused materials.

If you host a party, set the table with cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses and silverware.

Put recycling bins next to the garbage can and let guests know where the compost, recyclables and waste go.

Make holiday cards or buy those made with recycled paper.

Get off the mailing list for catalogs you don't use.

Give gifts of time: make certificates for baby-sitting, garden help or other chores.

Give gifts of experience: a cooking or dance class, concert, star lab or opera tickets, membership, picnic dates, an excursion to the coast, an evening out, monthly lunch dates.

Give gifts that keep on giving: potted plants, battery rechargers, a savings account or savings bonds, a magazine or journal of interest.

Give home-made treats or crafts wrapped in reused containers, or shop holiday markets and bazaars for crafts made from reused materials.

Don't buy new boxes; decorate cereal, shoe or other used boxes.

Use last year's bows and ribbons, or get creative with yarn or dried flowers.

When ordering products, request minimal packaging or natural fiber materials that are compostable.

- BRING Recycling, Lane County Waste Management


BRING Recycling education coordinator Sarah Grimm delights in finding ways to reduce waste; she stapled plastic holders together to create a star.
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Title Annotation:Environment; Make holidays low-waste and more meaningful
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 26, 2003
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