Alternatives and cost saving to traditional wrapping paper!!


Remember Wrapping paper is NOT recyclable.

Or at least in my area you may want to check your recycler to find out.

Each year I receive an email from my waste hauler that reads “Wrapping paper is not recyclable.” This Christmas I decided to make  an effort and keep this e-mail in mind as I went to wrap my gifts.  My goal was to find a way to wrap my gifts responsibility — for both the environment AND my pocketbook.



I considered using fabric to wrap gifts, and this looked like a very good option.  Fabric is recyclable and, in my area, is readily available.  I live in the part of the country that has a lot of office furniture manufactures, so buying unused fabric is inexpensive (as low as $5 for 19 yards). This seemed very reasonable, except I did not have fabric cutting scissors. I plan to keep this in mind for next year though… an investment in several pairs of quality scissors would allow me to use a more sustainable wrapping that could be reused year after year. This year, though, making a special trip out to buy more scissors just wasn’t in the cards

Other Papers

Snowflake our gifts

I thought about  wrapping paper made from soy ink and recycled paper. This sort of paper can be costly:  the amount of money I would spend for the amount of paper I would receive did not fit in my budget.

I looked at using used newspaper. I do not receive my news via newspaper (watch for another post on sustainable reading), so I would have to ask someone who receives a newspaper for their recycling. The cost would be free and it would be recycling a used product so that would two major benefits to newspaper as wrapping, but there was one big downside: newspaper does not have a “Christmas” look to the wrapped gifts. For any other holiday, newspaper (especially comics) would work, but not on Christmas.

The third option was to use craft/packaging paper. This turned out to be the best option for our family.  This paper acted just like normal wrapping paper so it was easy to cut, wrap, and tape. The look of the gifts at first were not very Christmas-like because the paper was just plain brown.  The solution was that my kids cut out white paper snowflakes and we tied Christmas color string/yarn around the packages. At first I was a little concerned about the look, but it turned out great. The kids were heavily involved to make the packaging Christmassy, and they loved every minute of it. They were also able to wrap their own gifts without much help. If you don’t like brown, they do have other colors of crafting paper available. (see above picture).

The environmental benefits:

Crafting/packaging paper is made from 100% recycling material with 50% being post-consumer. The paper is 100% recyclable. There are no inks of presses that go into making this paper.  The paper is also 100% compostable.

Cost Benefits:

For a roll of regular wrapping paper, you pay between 3-5 dollars for about 60 square feet.  If you fill your waste container with this packaging that will be another cost to just haul away to the landfill

Craft paper cost between 6-8 dollars for a roll of at least 120 square feet. The  waste cost can be zero if you decide to compost the paper

Final thought:

Using craft paper cost is much less, it is better for the environment, and your family can be more engaged with wrapping gifts. Finally, we can feel good that we support an industry that uses recyclable material.



Dan Broersma


Sustainable and Cost Effective Christmas Cards


My Digital Christmas Card


In  preparation for Christmas, we sent our Christmas cards– but not our usual way. We sent out digital Christmas cards (see above). This was a new experience for our family, but a very rewarding one with environmental benefits, cost savings, and lots of opportunities to be creative and personalize each card. I understand that Christmas cards are a labor of love for most people. And digital cards have all the benefits of traditional cards – plus more.

Environmental Benefits:

There are a lot of environmental benefits to creating digital cards.  First there is a smaller carbon footprint because you don’t need to go to a store nor do the cards require transportation by mail. You also conserve environmental resources by not purchasing a store bought holiday card including  paper, ink and packaging for the cards.

Bottom-line Cost Savings:

Christmas cards usually cost about $.75 a piece when you buy in bulk or packages and it costs 46 cents to mail each card.  So, depending on the amount of cards you send, this could add up to a lot of money..  This is just the cost of the materials, you also need to consider the cost of your time to sign, address, and personalize each card.  There are a lot of costs associated with sending a card that may or may not be read by the receiver.  This year I sent out over 100 cards to my friends and family. In the past I would have had to pick and choose who I could afford to these cards to. In the digital form you can attach the card into Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, or any other social media to send to your friends and family members.

Other Benefits:

I spent an hour sorting through old photos from this past year with my kids trying to decide which picture we should use for this year’s card.  This time was invaluable reminiscing and just laughing about the fun we had this past year.

Digital cards are also easy to create. It took me a total of 30 minutes to create the card above using a free photo software and Microsoft power point. I found similar tools to create these cards within Microsoft word, paint, and many other free and paid software programs.

Creating these cards is not only easy (there are many templates), but you can make it more personal by adding pictures of the people who will be receiving the cards or writing a personal message that is incorporated within the cards text.

There are some people on your Christmas card list who need a physical card because they do not have a computer or smart phone. Then you may print the digital card you created and send it to them in the mail. There is still a large cost savings to doing it this way.  You do not have buy a card or spend any time picking one out at the store.

Digital cards are a less expensive alternative to traditional Christmas cards (or birthday cards or any holiday cards for that matter). Creating digital cards can be more rewarding and more personal to keep in touch over the holidays with less time and money involved for the sender and just as much joy for the receiver.

Digital cards are just one small average way to be a little more ‘green’ this (and all) holiday seasons.


Questions leave a comment below or email :

Dan Broersma

Green Alternatives to Wrapping Paper


Wrapping paper and tissue paper are often times not recyclable. Please think about reusable gift wrap this holiday season or try to select wrapping paper that is and can be recycled. Here are some Suggestions

Scarves or Fabric 

Scarves work perfectly as gift wrap and can be considered a bonus gift. Leftover fabric scraps or recycled fabrics also make a great material for wrapping gifts and can be used over and over again. Old Sweaters, sheets, pillow cases and the like can make a great reusable option.





Festive Grocery Bag Wrapping Paper or Craft Paper 

With some simple cutting, folding and colorful tape and twine trimmings, old paper grocery bags or craft paper wrapping paper can make a great recyclable option. Some retailers even decorate the bags around the holidays to make it even easier.



Newspaper Gift Bag or Wrapping Paper

Start spreading the news — you can even make your own paper gift bag without leaving the house. All you need? Two sheets of newspaper, cardstock, glue and cord.


Comic Section With A Magazine Bow

With the comic section of the newspaper you can create unique gift wrap that’ll even give the recipient a good chuckle. Then to top it off with a colorful bow, use strips of magazine paper.



Reusable Grocery Bags

Eliminate waste this holiday season and skip the wrapping paper. Instead, give the gift of reuse with a limited edition Holiday ChicoBag™ brand reusable bags. These reusable holiday bags are ideal for wrapping gifts. The limited edition reusable holiday bags are available in three festive colors and feature a whimsical winter scene on the bag and a cheerful snowman on the pouch.


RETHINK WASTE: Planning a Zero Waste Event Guide


Zero-Waste-Event-logoSustainable Events and Event Planning
Hosting events is a common tradition for most businesses, organizations, schools, and friends. Events are a great way to collaborate with the community, thank customers for loyal business, celebrate an accomplishment, raise funds and to socialize. Many times, all of the time effort and resources of an events budget goes towards planning an event with little forethought given to the waste generated when the event is finished. Without proper planning, an event can generate a lot of landfill waste, utilize hard to recycle or non-recyclable goods and serve foods that are not as sustainable as other local more seasonal items. Planning an event with sustainability in mind will leave a positive impression for your guests and could also positively affect your bottom line. Thinking sustainably is a great way to generate a positive return on your hard earned investments.

Why Zero Waste?
Zero Waste is a philosophy and strategy to reduce our environmental footprint by minimizing the amount of waste that must be landfilled through waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and changes in purchasing.  Thinking towards zero waste is a mindset that helps us meet goals that are good for both people and the planet. You might not always reach “ZERO”, but it is good to have this goal in mind at the start!

Here are some suggestions on creating a more sustainable
Zero” Waste event.

All of the waste at your event can be classified into
4 types of materials:
Think of this the same way you think
about camping or hiking. “Pack out what you Pack In”.
Items that can be purchased or rented to eliminate the
need to recycle compost or landfill. Consider using real
glassware, plate ware, silverware and additional accessories prior to looking at disposable options. Rental companies are very easy to work with and have options to fit all budgets and needs. Many will deliver and pick up and some will even allow you to items dirty avoiding any major cleanups. When working with vendors ask what non disposable options are available for your event and what costs might be associated. Another consideration, when appropriate, is to encourage guests to bring their own place-settings, flatware, glasses and cups and napkins. Examples include:
Water bottles at festivals and outdoor events.
Picnic Basket sets (many are already stocked with everything you need)
Hire a caterer that brings all non-disposable dishes, flatware, serving utensils and glasses

includes many of the same items that you can recycle at your home or business such as: mixed paper, aluminum cans, tin cans, plastic water bottles, plastic cups, glass bottles, etc. It is important to find a recycler for your event if you are hosting in a location that does not offer recycling pickup. It is also extremely important to ensure that the items you purchase for your event are able to be recycled with that vendor. Not all vendors are able to recycle the same items so be sure to check before labeling the bins. Also be sure to look at plastics and look for the number on the bottom and confirm the recycler can accept that item. If a plastic items does not have a number it is not likely going to get recycled by the vendor and should be avoided for your event.

Composting (commercial) Includes ALL food, drink, paper napkins and compostable dinnerware. Compostable dinnerware is often made from plant based substances such as corn and potato starch, but looks just like traditional plastic or paper. It can be composted at a large scale composting facility and often is a better alternative to oil based plastics, particularly if they are not recyclable. Composting companies are growing in popularity and often are willing to work with you on your events. They can usually arrange for bins to be dropped off, assisting with locating compostable products and pick up bins once the event is done. Another alternative is partnering with someone who already uses commercial composting. Other items to consider:
Compostable bags for storing and disposing of items
Borrowing containers from other organizations
Label all containers clearly to assist your guests. Pictures, words, colors are all helpful
Composting for small events might be handled by you or your guests.  Backyard composting may be able to accommodate waste that could be easily transported in 3 to 5-gallon buckets with lids.

Garbage consists of the items leftover that are not reusable and cannot be composted or recycled. An ideal zero waste event prevents waste through the use of reusable items and then offers a recycling and composting option for all other types of foreseeable waste. The better you are prepared, the more likely you are able to reach zero waste status. At the very least 85-90% of most waste on average falls into the two categories above if a reusable item is not available.

 Organizing and Planning Waste Collection 

Waste Stations
A successful zero waste event has clearly labeled stations with the following 4 bins or compartments: 1. Recycle; 2. Compost; 3. Landfill; 4. Area to place reusable items. Having multiple bins with clearly legible signs increases the likelihood a guest will place items in the proper places. Having trained volunteers will also help answer questions and direct items into their proper places. Pictures of the items are also really helpful.

Education Be prepared to communicate to all event participants that your event is Zero Waste. Prior to the event you can share this through pre-event promotions such as posters, print ads, radio spots, vendor applications and other media. At the event, any additional education you can do is great! If appropriate, consider making announcements on stage, posting additional signage and educating your vendors on Zero Waste principles.
Always thank your guests for being good stewards of our resources and environment!

Catered Events Catered events are easier in some respects but can involve training staff who may not be aware of how to achieve “Zero” waste. Working with the kitchen to set up stations and helping the staff to understand which items go where will help your event to be successful. A catered event is easier because less people have to worry about how to organize the bins properly. Still you may want to have some tasteful bins throughout the event to bring attention to your zero waste goals. For compostable waste it is important to know how you plan on collecting this waste as traditional trash bags cannot be used. Lining all of the bins with compostable bags is probably your best option. Another tip is to make trash bins harder for your guests and staff to find. There is no need to make them inaccessible but having the main focus be on the other bins and areas designated for reusable will help prevent waste from getting landfilled unnecessarily.

Want additional help or want us plan your sustainable event?

Green Michigan has helped in planning and organizing many sustainable events. Corporate lunches and picnics, all day workshops, sporting events, formal fundraising galas, social events and even weddings. We have the ability to work with your team to plan and execute events with sustainability in mind. Whether you are looking to incorporate more local foods, host zero waste events (composting, recycling and reducing waste), introduce plant based options or simply reduce waste there are plenty of ways we can help make your next event more sustainable.

                                                                                                 Check list:
Foods to be served
Catered – Meet with caterer to discuss details
Boxed lunch (recycled and recyclable box or bag)
Resusable containers – Metal trays, resealable plastic
Foil or compostable paper wrapped
No plastic wrapped flatware
Packaging/containers for post-event storage of food.
Caterer arranged
Owned by Business or Organization hosting event
Glassware/Cups from rental company
Table covers – cloth (washable), Paper – recyclable
No table covers or placemats
Compostable plates, bowls, flatware
Check plastic for #1 – #7. Check recycler for ability to recycle
Recycle/Compost bins clearly labeled
Contact vendor or collaborator for removal
Latex Gloves in case some sorting is necessary
Pre labeling all containers – Pictures, Colors, Legible and large enough Fonts
Thank all guests for being good stewards!

Green Michigan Founders Win Local Hero Award


12509634_10153920143959936_7112061747863233624_n is pleased to announce that our two founders Dan Broersma & Ken Freestone were recently awarded the Local First Local Hero Award.

Local First is a non profit community organization that fosters the development of a sustainable local living economy in West Michigan. This award is presented to an individual or family that has demonstrated a shift toward local purchasing and sustainable living and in their habits and practices, have truly lived local first.

Both Dan and Ken have made notable contributions to the West Michigan community – Dan has brought together environmentally conscious organizations to create a collaborative community of practice and Ken has initiated entrepreneurial endeavors that include incubating businesses, supporting arts education, and organizing philanthropic opportunities that meet the needs of his community.

The two have joined together to create Green – a website designed to curate everything a person might desire to know about being a conscious consumer, how to live more efficiently and sustainably

 Link to Local First a great Organization ;

Christmas Stocking Stuffers – Holland

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A great gift  for family’s is a gift certificate to a locally owned  and operated restaurant.

I am personally  giving away jars of local honey from a local university @gvsu along with hand made adult hot chocolate kits. 🙂
Don’t forget to look locally for gift ideas.
Where I live in Holland Mi:

The Bridge, a great fair-trade store, where you can find an assortment of socially- and environmentally-friendly products.
While you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by the Peanut Store, for popcorn balls and other consumable goodies.

Karla’ Place  a place were locally made gifts are sold.


There are always Christmas markets across the state seliing locally made gifts.  I n Holland Check out the holiday Kertsmarkt


Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most. LED light bulbs fit snugly in a stocking and can spare many a kilowatt hour this coming new year.

Tire gauges are another great little gift. By keeping tires properly inflated, you can save fuel and cut pollution.
For families with lots of electronics and toys, consider giving rechargeable batteries and chargers. It is a great way to save landfills and pocketbooks at the same time.


Thoughtful Gift Giving

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Everywhere you look right now, you’ll find Eco-friendly gift products, but being green isn’t just about buying post-consumer products or green gadgets. If you consider the distance the product has traveled and the potential waste that was generated to create the product you might want to reconsider.
Try your hand at a handmade gift… What could be more personal than something you’ve made? A holiday wreath decorated with birdseed, suet and fruit slices, is Eco-friendly,  and will sustain the little red cardinals and other birds throughout the  winter. Homemade cookies, breads and granola bars are a perfect gift for anyone.
Not a baker? Give the gift of time instead. Offer to someone with childcare, tasks around the house or get creative and lend your skills and talents to a project they’d love. It won’t cost a thing and may trump more expensive gifts you could ever think of to purchase.


Dan Broersma


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