Our Green Gurus

Guest bloggers share all you need to know to lead a greener lifestyle.

Festive DIY gifts & decorations

Hedge-Clippings

The first step to make the wreath is to find something in your garden that will lend itself to a repetitive pattern.

Adding the Bottle-brush

Making this wreath definitively Australian by adding some red bottle-brush.

Tree-Construction

Using a ruler to work out the length of each piece of bamboo.

The-Finished-Product

This is what the tree will look like, but because all of the bamboo pieces are rotatable you can make any pattern you want.

Home-Made-Olive-Oils

This is an easy present when you are on a tight budget.

Wreath-Hanging

Here is my free from nature Australian festive wreath.

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By Joel Burgess, Green Lifestyle magazine intern

I've always been a bit of a grinch. Nothing irritates me more than a lie and eventually I discovered that my parents had been blatantly misleading me for the first eight years of my life. Not only this, but they were using a fable to manipulate my behaviour: Santa only gives presents to good boys and girls, they said. I struggled to speak to them for the rest of the month. Christmas for me was dead.

As it has been some years since this traumatic childhood experience, my feelings towards the holiday have tempered somewhat (I've stopped trying to draw tangents between Santa and the devil). But rather than happiness, this season has always tended to rear a bitter and twisted green monster. I'm not sure if that is what caused my clenched fists while walking past houses so covered with neon reindeer that you could see them from space, or my tooth grinding as the loungeroom filled up with plastic, packing foam and fluoro ribbons. Granted, everybody celebrates in their own way and it wasn't so much the holiday's fault, but the silly season entices excess and it seemed to me to be the most obvious example of communal wastefulness.

This year I'm having a crack at being constructive and testing whether having a completely environmentally friendly festive season could reawaken my festive spirit.

The wreath
I initially planned to make a wreath out of lavender as it looks and smells beautiful, but decided instead to use clippings from a hedge in the back garden that was in need of a trim. I found some chicken wire left over from the construction of a vegie patch, bent it into a circular tube and bound the loose ends together. I poked the hedge clippings through the chicken wire, angling them in a consistent direction and using string to tie off the most unruly branches. If you don't have any wire, almost any circular object will do. Simply tie each piece of greenery on. Lastly, I added some red native bottlebrush flowers for a splash of colour, but you could add any red flowers. Tie a loop of string to the back to hang the wreath.

The tree
After some searching on the internet I found a cool Christmas tree that looked like some bearded industrial designer had got his hands on a massive Jenga set and decided to make a tree out of it. It was made from sustainable wood and cost $350. I'm not flush enough to fork out that much, but I wanted the tree. I remembered that there was some bamboo in my yard that had to been cut down a few months ago as it was aggravating the neighbours. Bamboo was the perfect candidate for such a project as it light and sturdy. It is also thick at one end and naturally tapers at the top.

Here's how to make the tree:
- Cut the bamboo into various lengths (I used about 30 pieces) – the longest ones will equal the diameter of the base of the tree.
- Cut the longest piece of bamboo in half lengthways - this will be placed curved side up at the base of the tree to stabilise it.
- Drill a hole straight through the centre of each piece.
- Thread the pieces of drilled bamboo over a long metal screw (about one metre, purchased from any hardware), starting with the piece of bamboo that was cut in half and continuing with ever shorter pieces to create a tapered tower.
- When you get near the top of the screw, slip an undrilled piece of bamboo vertically over the top to completely cover the metal.

Presents
I'm sure you have heard of this one but it really is useful when running low on money. All you need are some old wine or spirit bottles (pick nice looking ones), a few litres of olive oil, some packets of dried garlic, chilli and rosemary, and a computer and printer. First, soak the bottles in hot water, peel off the labels and allow the bottles to dry. Then add a whole packet of spice to the bottom of each bottle. Pour in olive oil until the bottles are almost full. Make some simple labels and print them on recycled paper. I soaked them in tea for added effect and attached them with non-toxic glue. Now you have gourmet homemade Christmas gifts that will last months – for less than $5 each.

Stay tuned to our instagram page for ideas for sustainable decorations, wrapping paper and cards. I can feel myself starting to see the appeal of this festival. I guess it doesn't have to be so bad after all.

Here are some useful links that may help you have a sustainable festive season:
- For LED, solar powered lights see Light Tree.
- Biome Eco Stores have some great decorations.
- For cutlery for eco-minded Christmas picnics.
- To see how to make your own decorative pasta angels, click here.
- To rent a tree that will be delivered and picked up in its pot so that it can keep growing for years to come visit Eco Christmas Trees.