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Green Holidays

Well, it’s nice to have sur­vived Black Fri­day. I made it by stay­ing away from all the stores. It was a peace­ful day in the woods for me, with a small fire and a comfy chair. I highly rec­om­mend it. But now there is shop­ping to be done, and it won’t be painful. I have lots of ideas from local stores and busi­nesses for every­one on my list, includ­ing a few furry friends.

Sup­port local green busi­nesses while you shop. The Howard County Green Busi­ness Coun­cil appre­ci­ates the efforts com­mu­nity mem­bers make to green their hol­i­day sea­son, and that includes spread­ing some of the green to local busi­nesses that sell envi­ron­men­tally prefer­able prod­ucts or ser­vices. The fol­low­ing gifts can be pur­chased in afford­able price ranges, from mem­bers of the Howard County Green Busi­ness Coun­cil, the green­est busi­nesses in the County.

For instance, one gift that keeps on giv­ing is a home energy audit. You can help your friends and fam­ily save money for many years to come by buy­ing them a gift cer­tifi­cate for an energy audit.

Here is a list of gifts that can be pur­chased in Howard County.

  • Fair-trade, USDA organic, and non-GMO drink­ing chocolates.
  • All nat­ural body care prod­ucts with nat­ural ingre­di­ents in their prod­ucts: pure essen­tial oils for fra­grance; clays, plants, and herbs for dyes; and plant-based oils as a soap base.
  • Fair trade shea but­ter and coconut-based body care prod­ucts from Togo. The maker of this prod­uct sup­ports fair-trade, women-run coop­er­a­tives in Togo.
  • Solar phone chargers.
  • Can­dles made from domes­tic beeswax. They are scented with nat­ural essen­tial oils and col­ored with nat­ural min­eral pigments.
  • Water Clocks .. clocks that run on water!
  • Cook­books for thought­ful eat­ing, whether that’s defined as loca­vore, veg­e­tar­ian, vegan or raw. Other books for thought­ful liv­ing — med­i­ta­tion, cre­ativ­ity, yoga, spir­i­tu­al­ity, food/ecology issues.
  • Cloth­ing made from organic cot­ton, sup­port­ing fair-trade, com­mu­nity projects.
  • Eco-friendly, USA made pet toys and beds made from recy­cled mate­ri­als such as plas­tic bottles.
  • Fair trade sweaters hand­made by Inca Arti­sans in South Amer­ica. 100% wool and plant based dyes.
  • Pet treats – hand­made and nat­ural ingredients.
  • Orna­ments — hand­made and crafted by local vil­lagers in Thai­land to help to cre­ate jobs, bet­ter schools, and drink­ing water.


And then, after you’ve shopped for every­one else and still have some money left over, why not invest in your own future by look­ing into a solar sys­tem for your home. Green Busi­ness Coun­cil mem­bers can help home­own­ers pay zero for util­ity bills and gen­er­ate income at the same time!

Again, please visit the Howard County Green Busi­ness Coun­cil web­site for more ideas and infor­ma­tion about this impor­tant sec­tor of our local economy.

Best wishes for a green hol­i­day season,

Ann Elsen
Decem­ber 2012

Black Friday Goes Green

The feast is over. You’re now hap­pily digest­ing some locally raised, hor­mone free turkey; organic sweet pota­toes; and CSA sup­plied green beans. As you sip your glass of Mary­land wine and strate­gize for the biggest shop­ping day of the year, you feel a pain. Ini­tially it might seem like indi­ges­tion from that extra piece of pie you pol­ished off, but it’s not. That’s the pain of know­ing the mag­ni­tude of the car­bon foot­print you’ll be bear­ing tomorrow.

So what do you do? Save money or save the planet? It’s a tough call and typ­i­cally Black Fri­day tosses out the planet in favor of the money because how in the world could you think of try­ing to do both?!?!

*Cue super­hero music*
OES to the res­cue! We’ve com­piled a vari­ety of tips to help you min­i­mize your foot­print when it feels like all you can think about is “how many miles before I see the cashier from the end of this check­out line?” (We rec­om­mend read­ing these sev­eral times so they are in the back of your mind dur­ing the craze that is Amer­i­can holidays.)

Before we start, I should pref­ace for my tree hug­ger friends that we real­ize in an ideal world, every­one would just hand make gifts and give their loved ones peanut butter-covered pine cone bird feed­ers, but we are here to try to help you through the more likely sce­nario. How­ever, we do sin­cerely applaud those of you who are mak­ing your gifts and would love to hear about them!

Get Ready, Get Set: You need fuel. Eat local, hor­mone free, fresh from the farm food. The less the food trav­els before it enters your mouth, the more nutri­ents it can offer you dur­ing your sprint to the next store. Plus your guests are less likely to fall asleep on your couch or leave your house groan­ing in pain when filled with healthy, organic, hor­mone free food.

Select­ing Your First Store: The local move­ment is hot and you should join. While we can’t guar­an­tee you bet­ter park­ing, we can guar­an­tee you free park­ing in his­toric Elli­cott City and Sav­age Mill, at least. Peo­ple love gifts with local flair; it’s as if you’re shar­ing a part of your daily life with them. Plus the money you’re spend­ing stays right here in our local Howard County econ­omy, not some off shore bank account.

Get­ting There: If you don’t have inten­tions of buy­ing a home gym and weight set, then bike, walk, or take the bus. Oth­er­wise, car pool. Shop­ping with friends is more fun than shop­ping alone so find a car­pool meet­ing loca­tion the day before. Clown cars are all the rage these days (just make sure there are enough seat­belts)! You’ll save hav­ing to cir­cle the park­ing lot for the 100th time to find a spot for your hybrid. If you some­how man­age to have a choice of spaces to park, pick one that is cen­trally located within walk­ing dis­tance of mul­ti­ple stores rather than attempt­ing to relo­cate your car by dri­ving across the expan­sive park­ing lot to the next store. (Luck­ily Black Fri­day pretty much doesn’t give us the option to move our cars — some­thing to keep in mind every time we shop.)

Wis­dom from Within: You made it through the doors. The store music is loud, the peo­ple are loud, but you have a flash back to this blog and remem­ber the key things you are look­ing for to reduce your footprint.

  • Buy items with lit­tle or no pack­ag­ing, or at the very least ensure pack­ag­ing can be recy­cled. Buy gifts that will last gen­er­a­tions – qual­ity over quantity.
  • Grab the wrap­ping paper and cards made of post-consumer recy­cled paper and that can be eas­ily recy­cled again – not the foil paper.
  • Don’t be ashamed to keep it prac­ti­cal and use­ful. Every­one needs socks; few peo­ple need lawn ornaments.
  • When you pick up an item that you think some­one will love, pic­ture where that item will be in five years. If you don’t like the image that pops to mind, put it back on the shelf and try again.
  • Buy things that are made locally. Indulge oth­ers with our specialties.
  • Do not let the cashier dou­ble bag your items at check out. You remem­bered to bring your reusable bags so you’re all set and don’t have to worry about gifts being strewn through the park­ing lot as you trek to your car.

You sur­vived: You dropped off your car­pool friends and you are now home safe and sound. Con­grats. You find your­self once again sip­ping your local Mary­land wine or micro­brew and star­ing at the task ahead: wrap­ping and deliv­er­ing. Reach for cre­ative wrap­ping alter­na­tives that can be reused, or at the very least avoid the foil type paper that can­not be recycled.

  • A large new dish towel to wrap a kitchen gift.
  • A cloth shop­ping bag for an odd shaped item.
  • A quilt or blan­ket for large items.
  • A sock or scarf to wrap some­thing small such as jewelry.
  • A gift bag you received last hol­i­day season.
  • News­pa­per fits every box.
  • Reuse pack­ing peanuts or bub­ble wrap for shipped gifts (take extras to your local ship­ping store and it will make their day).
  • Buy online and refuse gift wrap so you can use one of these cool alternatives
  • Bas­kets work for any­thing: choco­lates, home­made treats, food, drinks, etc.
  • Fab­ric rib­bon from the craft store that can be reused again and again to tie pack­ages and won’t get all smooshed like a plas­tic bow.
  • Pieces of yarn that can be reused to tie any­thing from pig­tails to doll clothes.
  • Shoe laces are made to tie, enough said.
  • Tie an orna­ment or small gift onto the top of another pack­age with your reusable rib­bon rather than using more wrap­ping or another box.

Hope­fully in your pile of gifts you’ll also find that you remem­bered to grab some­thing to donate to the home­less shel­ter, or the food bank, or a neigh­bor who strug­gled this year. They thank you for think­ing of them on Black Fri­day.

If Black Fri­day Makes You Cringe (we don’t blame you): Search online for hand­made gifts and you’ll find loads of ideas. Also, search your attic for a box of your child’s favorite old toys and give them to your grand­chil­dren or other child in your life, one per year. They will have a toy that no one else on the block could find in the stores and they’ll think it’s amazing.

We’d love to hear your tips for keep­ing your foot­print low this hol­i­day and shop­ping sea­son. Please share your ideas with us, because even though we occa­sion­ally come with super­hero music, we still def­i­nitely need side­kicks to get the job done.

Lind­say DeMarzo
OES Staff
Novem­ber 2010

Green Tip

Pay bills online.It’s usually free, and you can sign up for email reminders so you won’t be late.