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Friday, December 19, 2008

Holidays Are for the Family

Vestina Crayton, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability
Holiday Family Decision Making

Having to make so many decisions this holiday season can be overwhelming. Since most decisions that you will make will impact your family, why not get them involved? From who will prepare the holiday dinner to who will clean up after dinner, everyone can help.

However, you must start with making some decisions. Schedule a family meeting and simply create your plan by answering the following four questions:

1. What do you want to accomplish?
2. How will you do it?
3. When will you do it?
4. Who will be involved?

You can use these simple questions to help make any family decision. Making decisions as a family can help reduce conflict and enhance the younger member’s ability to set goals and be a team player by contributing to the success of making sure the goals are accomplished.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holidays Are For the Family

Vestina Crayton, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

The Best Gift for the Holidays

Every year many of us think long and hard about what would be the perfect gift to give a loved one. Many of us are very fortunate to have family and friends to celebrate the holiday season. But there are many who do not. As a family, consider giving the gift of kindness. Schedule a family meeting and brainstorm ways that you can share and care for someone in your community.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Make gift baskets for the elderly and/or shut-ins.
  • Visit the hospitals.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  • Make homemade cards together.
  • Team up with other families and do all of the above.

Showing kindness is a priceless gift that keeps on giving. By working together and showing concern for others, you strengthen your own family's relationships.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays Are For the Family

Vestina Crayton, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Minimizing Holiday Stress

Holidays are for family, friends, and fun. But the reality is, preparing for family, friends, and fun can be stressful. In addition to getting plenty of sleep, exercising, eating properly, involve all of your family members in the preparation process - from the youngest to the oldest. Whether by design or choice, many times, family event planning is left up to one or possibly two persons in the household. However, even the most skilled and organized can experience a plan that goes awry. When this happens, frustration follows.

Here are just a few suggestions to help you minimize the stress, so you can maximize the fun:
  • Schedule a family meeting
  • Write down all the things you want to do
  • Prioritize
  • Set your goals
  • Develop a plan
  • Assign tasks
  • Evaluate the progress
  • Most importantly, CELEBRATE your accomplishments!
Using this strategy ensures that everyone in the family knows the expectations and actively participants in making sure these expectations are met. In addition, the younger family members will learn valuable life skills such as setting goals, planning, time management, and working as a team.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Green Holiday Table

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

The Green Guest

Many of us love to entertain during the holidays, and we may all be invited to a soiree or two during the dark months. You can have a green gathering, and be a green guest when making the holidays merry.

If you are throwing a party, get out that china and linen! Paper service may be easy-to-clean, but the next generations will be left to clean-up after our parties if we continue sending holiday plates, bowls and napkins to the landfill.

As with other food choices and purchases, remember fresh and local. Seasonal treats comingle with sweets and Florida-fresh hors d'oeuvre.

Always be prepared for leftovers. Get a supply of reusable plastic containers, and make sure guests leave with a portion of any extra food. In the spirit of giving and reducing holiday waste, these little snack-gifts will help your guests remember a grand time at your party.

Get your guests involved in recycling. Make sure they know where the bins are, for the occasional beverage can, aluminum chocolate-drop wrapper, or bit of holiday paper generated at a party.

If you are the guest, bring gifts in re-usable containers (gift bags or, if you are bringing food, a reusable plastic container or your own dish that you plan on retrieving later.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Green Holiday Table

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Choosing the Main Course

What to eat, what to eat? Are you planning a big holiday feast this year? Many families have a set, traditional meal, enjoyed every year. This may include familiar stand-by dishes, or may have a unique-to-the-family twist. Whatever your spread, the centerpiece of any feast can be a sustainable main.

If meat makes your meal, consider purchasing from a local butcher. You can order in advance, precisely what you want and when you want it. Although freezing food is certainly not a bad thing, there is something to be said for fresh meats and vegetables. Ask your butcher to forgo the plastic foam containers when wrapping your slab, opting for good old butcher’s paper in stead. From fowl to pig to cow, your butcher will know just where and when your choice came from.

This may be the year to have a seafood feast. Local seafood markets can help you make the best choice for your family. Freshly-caught seasonal fish from our own waters again support a local economy and do not travel hundreds of miles to get to your plate.

Whatever you choose, keep fresh and local in mind and enjoy your repast!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Green Holiday Table

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Fresh, Local Produce

As we’ve stated before, patronizing local markets is great for the local economy, ensures freshness, and is often more affordable than big supermarket chains.

Why not have a ‘Fresh From Florida’ feast this year? Visit and learn about seasonal availability of Florida crops and other agricultural products. From seafood to sprouts to wine, you can support Florida agriculture, our local economy, and enjoy doing it!

Check the newspapers for a listing of local farmers’ markets. There are now markets in north, central and south Pinellas County—look for one near you! There are a myriad of small produce stands dotted throughout the county as well. Check the phone book under Produce-Retail for a list of green grocers near you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Give the Gift of Green

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Great Green Gifts

Need some inspiration for your holiday gift-giving this year? Here are some suggestions that can help you be as green as the Grinch (after his mood improved, of course...)

Why not help a friend or loved-one overcome some of the barriers we have all heard:
“I don’t have a (or enough) re-usable shopping bag(s)”
“Compact fluorescent bulbs are too expensive”
“I wish I had a rain barrel…”

Give the gift of green this year, by supplying yours with green items that will help them conserve resources in 2009:

Re-usable shopping bags
Compact fluorescent bulbs
A rain barrel
Battery re-charger (my dad LOVED his last year!)
A gift-basket of green cosmetics
A picnic basket filled with re-usable plates, cloth napkins, to-go cutlery, etc.

You may also consider supporting green industry:

A selection of Fair-Trade coffees and chocolates
A gift-certificate for green-certified products

Or perhaps you might be inspired to give a 100% waste-free gift:

Different charitable organizations will make a contribution in the name of your recipient. You can sponsor a goat, cow, flock of chickens, beehive, medicine, training or any number of products and services to help developing nations. As we struggle with our own economy, spare a thought for those countries that depend on charity to survive—and how charity may be dropping off during the “first world’s” crisis. Visit Oxfam Unwrapped to learn more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Give the Gift of Green

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Wrap it Up

Many of us love to see a lovely display of gifts in brightly-colored paper ready for exchange during the holidays. There are green options to this tradition as well, and when you hear the facts, you may consider making some green choices this year.

In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff) A good alternative is the gift bag. This quick and easy way to conceal goodies is a reusable item itself, and can be considered part of the gift.

Wherever wrapping paper is necessary, look for at least 30% post-consumer content paper. Pinellas County Utilities arranges for free, recycled-content paper every year, available in several outlets (including Pinellas County Extension.)

Do not hesitate to save those bows and ribbons for next year! If every US family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet!

Save gift tags as well. Family gift-giving generally involves the same “TOs” and “FROMs” each year. Consider a holiday craft project of making permanent labels to be attached to gifts each year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Give the Gift of Green

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Making Choices
Gift-giving has become a huge part of the holiday season. Jokes are made about receiving an obnoxious pair of socks, ridiculous sweater, or some other wildly-inappropriate item. This holiday-humor has a sinister undertone, however. If a gift is merely a token, and not carefully considered, that gift might very well end up in the waste stream. Just think of all the musical Santa ties stacked up in our local landfills!

When choosing a gift for a friend or loved-one, remember things like personal attire are just that: personal. A gift-card from a local business can be used at your friend’s leisure to get just what he or she wants. These almost waste-free gifts can solve lots of shopping conundrums.

Families may consider setting spending limits, or drawing names for gift exchange. This is certainly not a new idea, but according to a national survey, 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending. (Center for a New American Dream) Especially during these troubled economic times, giving less means spending less, and less chance for the waste stream to burst its banks!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ready, Set, SHOP! Buying Green for the Holidays

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Green Shopping Tips

Before you head out to do the shopping this Holiday Season, don't forget the Big Three of Sustainability: Environment, Economy and Society.

We've endeavored to show that in every aspect of our lives, no matter how mundane, we can make choices that benefit the Big Three. Shopping, especially as it reaches a yearly peak this month, is a great place to stretch your green wings.

  • Streamline shopping trips so you stay off the road as much as possible.

  • When making any purchase, consider the packaging--if it comes down to a choice between two products, choose the one with the most easily-recycled/reused packaging.

  • Buy whatever you can in bulk, especially items you and your family will be using a lot of this season.

  • Don't forget to bring your reusable bags with you when you shop!


  • Patronize local business for your shopping needs this year. Support for the "Little Guy" bolsters our local economy.

  • Make a list and stick to it! Purchase only what you NEED.

  • Shop on-line to avoid getting on the road and wasting gas.


  • Budget for a donation to a local charity.

  • Take some time to visit/bring a gift to a shut-in.

  • Before you bring a lot more "stuff" into your home, have a sort-through of what you've got and take any and all excess to a thrift shop (while you are there, you MIGHT just find that perfect something for that someone!!)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ready, Set, SHOP! Buying Green for the Holidays.

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Stop Holiday Waste in its Tracks

From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills (EPA.)

When making choices this year, consider what you are buying. Look at the amount of packaging, and thin where that extra packaging will end up. Try to purchase a minimum of packaging in all purchases. Enquire if stores will accept the return of packaging materials (especially the foam packing materials.)

Bring those reusable bags with you! If you need a reminder, work them into your holiday decorations: place a colorful and festive reminder next to the door you leave from reminding you to collect the reusable bags before you leave!

Do not take a holiday from recycling this year! Check with your local recycling agency to make sure you know the holiday schedule. Plan a special trip to a drop-off location on one of days early in the new year to get rid of a lot of recycling at once.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ready, Set, SHOP! Buying Green for the Holidays

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability
Welcome to the "12 Days of Green" this hooliday season. Our first is a three-part installment that will hopefully help you in making decisions when composing your holiday shopping lists.

Green Products
Holiday green. Holiday greenery. Greenbacks. Have you got “green-fatigue” already? Well, try to relax and we will help you not get overwhelmed by all the choices to be made in looking for and purchasing green products. Remember Vestina Crayton’s article on “Greenwashing,” and the tips offered in previous posts.

What purchases increase during the holidays? What green options are available?

We’ll cover gifts in later posts, but just think of what purchases increase during the winter holidays: Extra food, decorations, cards, and the fuel used to zoom around making these extra purchases all add up. Green choices will help reduce the strain on the wallet, and in turn may benefit the environment.

Food: What is “green food?” Not just veggies! When making choices about holiday meals, treats, snacks, etc., consider the source of the ingredients. You may want to purchase organics in an effort to satisfy “green guilt,” but as Jan Wade-Miller points out in Timely Topics: “On average, fresh produce in the United States travels anywhere from 1,300 to 2,000 miles from the farmer to the consumer -- a process that creates enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses. These food miles partially cancel the benefits of organic farming.” Buying locally grown produce has an immediate environmental benefit.

Decorations: Again, consider gussying-up your home this holiday with recycled items. Many thrift stores keep re-usable decorations ready for sale during this time of year. No sense in importing MORE plastic from overseas if there are suitable baubles already here! Consider supporting local green-grocers who often offer greenery, plants and flowers sourced much more locally than the big retailers. Supporting local business is great for our economy.

Cards: The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year n the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (Use Less Stuff) Consider sending an electronic card. The following are some examples of what is available on the internet:
American Greetings
Yahoo Greeting Cards

Finally, as with the rest of the year, plan your trips wisely. Jetting out the door for one cup of sugar wastes your valuable time as well as precious petroleum! Relax and plan your shopping trips to avoid unnecessary travel.