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Published on December 5th, 2008 | by Shirley Siluk Gregory


The Zero Dollar Christmas Challenge

Sigismund von Dobsch├╝tz at Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license)There are plenty of reasons to cut back on your holiday shopping this year: the lousy economy, needless waste, insane (and sometimes deadly) crowds and the heavy cost it all imposes on the environment as well as on our wallets. So I’m engaging upon a personal challenge: the Zero Dollar Christmas.

OK, I’ll probably end up spending a little bit on Christmas gifts this year — with a five-year-old in the house, it’s hard not to meet at least a few of the wishes on his list. Even so, though, I’ll aim to keep most of those purchases in the used/recycled/eBay/Craigslist categories.

For many of the others on my holiday list, though? I’ve been exploring ways to create attractive, useful and thoughtful gifts at little or no cost using things I already have around the house. You can check out the ideas I’ve assembled so far (a few of which I’ve already made) at Zero Dollar Christmas.

Now I’m asking all of you to send in your suggestions as well. Have you made any Christmas gifts yourself yet? Have you ever received any you thought were especially wonderful? Do you have a favorite resource you visit with handmade crafts and gifts ideas? Let me know, and I’ll continue posting more thoughts on how to celebrate a Zero (or near-zero) Dollar Christmas!

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About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options' Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor's degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism. After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era. Shirley's always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning. Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley's environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina -- and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 -- has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That's why she's become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

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