A 'How To' for a Green Holiday - Holiday Week


Santa catching up on his own Christmas shopping. Photo by Alan Myers.

It’s less than a week until Christmas, and if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, we don’t blame you. Between work and getting your house ready for the holiday season, who has time to go shopping for gifts?  Even if you make time to go to the store and you run the risk of being trampled or pepper sprayed by other desperate bargain hunters. For those looking for ways to spread holiday cheer without breaking the bank (or your neck), BTR has a few suggestions to make your holiday season merry and bright:

Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange:

A White Elephant Gift Exchange party is a fun and creative way to host a party your friends or relatives with an extremely good sense of humor. Set a spending limit and tell all of your guests to buy and wrap a gift they will each bring to the party. Hopefully, your guests will get creative and bring something like $15 worth of chewing gum or a pair of light-up Christmas socks. If you’re not feeling as mischievous, pick something anyone would like to receive, like a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. The point of the party is less about the gift and more about the game you’ll be playing once you all get together.

Once everyone has brought their presents, the wrapped gifts all go in the middle of the room and the guests form a circle around them. The person to start the game picks one present and unwraps it for everyone else to see. The next person now has a choice: pick another present to unwrap or steal the previously unwrapped present. If a person has their present stolen from them, they can then pick either another present to unwrap or (if they are the third person or after) they can steal another person’s gift. However, no more than three swaps can be made per turn, and the turn ends when a gift is unwrapped. The game is over when all the presents have been opened.

Nothing says “holiday spirit” like stealing and gag gifts, right?

Shop “Small” This Season:

Department stores make a killing during the holidays by running special sales like Black Friday and other promotional deals, but did you ever think what that means for the employees who have to work the midnight after Thanksgiving instead of spending the day off with their families? Black Friday has passed, but now is the perfect time to join the effort to “shop small” or purchase gifts exclusively at small businesses to avoid feeding into corporate greed.

American Express sponsored the first ever “Shop Small Saturday” on November 27, 2010 and the movement continues to support small business owners. The whole point is to boycott the massive holiday bargain juggernauts to show them that consumers are becoming more socially conscious of spending habits. Shopping locally means you’ll avoid the frenzy of department stores and know your money is going to support real people running their own businesses.

Have a Tree Decorating Contest:

This game, like the White Elephant Gift Exchange, is especially fun if you and your friends like to get a little creative. Plus if you’re the host, this is the perfect way to get others to decorate your Christmas tree for you. Invite your friends over for drinks and appetizers, tell them they have to make their own tree ornament and that you will provide the tree. Tell them that cutting out a snowflake and tying it with a ribbon simply will not cut it, as the person who brings the funniest/most creative ornament wins a prize.

The competition will unleash their creativity, and your eclectic Christmas tree will make for a great conversation topic for the rest of the night.

Eat, Drink, and be Sustainable:

Of course, what’s a holiday survival guide without food? Food is an essential part of the season, but no reason to opt out of finding organic and eco-friendly dishes to serve and enjoy. The Internet is your best friend when it comes to finding organic recipes, but to get you started, try this recipe for Pfeffernusse Cookies, courtesy of The Green Extract.


  • 1/2 cup organic molasses
  • 1/4 cup local raised, corn-syrup free honey
  • 1/2 cup organic butter
  • 2 organic, free range eggs
  • 4 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup organic white sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons organic ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons organic anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons organic ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup organic confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. Stir together the molasses, honey and butter in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs.
  2. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combines. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Roll the dough into acorn-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.