Plan a Last-Minute Green Gift-Making Party

My husband and I like to get our holiday gifting done early, and this year, we’ve done a really good job. But inevitably, we tend to focus on the kids first — our own children, nieces, nephews, etc. So while we’ve gotten them out of the way, there are always one or two people who we “forget” until the last minute. Our daughter’s teacher is one of them, and there are a couple of other folks who we’d like to bless with a small token of our appreciation.

However, this late in the season, the last thing we want to do is spend time at the mall, or even shopping online and crossing our fingers that our purchases will be shipped in time. So what to do? Well, you could always make some homemade gifts. In fact, you could get a group of friends together and host a Gift-Making party.

So what’s a gift-making party? Well, you get a couple of close friends or family members together and spend an afternoon or evening making awesome homemade gifts and having a great time. In addition to the fact that making your own gifts is infinitely greener than buying them at a store, here are some tips to make your party an eco-success.

Send virtual invitations

Example above from eVite.com

This type of party is better for a small group of people — about 3-6 — rather than a large group, since you’ll definitely need some work space. Services like Evite and others make it really easy to send quality electronic invitations, and some of them even allow you to pick an “envelope” the way you would with paper invites. If you must use paper, opt for recycled paper, and encourage your invitees to recycle it once they’re finished with it.

In the invite, explain the purpose of the party and tell your guests that you’ll provide supplies for gift-making, but that should bring their own scissors and any other supplies they think would be handy.

Suggestions for items they can bring:

  • Glue
  • Fabric
  • Buttons, ribbons and other embellishments
  • Thread and/or yarn

Keep the menu simple

The goal of the party is to make gifts, so there’s no need for an elaborate menu. Finger foods and baked goods are fine. And the greenest way to offer baked goods is to make them yourself. That way, you can control the ingredients used and avoid artificial flavors, colors, etc.

Ditch the disposables

We use ceramic plates all year long, and there’s no reason to stop just because we’re having a party. However, we’re a small family, and we don’t have a lot of matching plates. Head to your local thrift store or Walmart to pick up some inexpensive extras for your guests. Walmart offers single plates in case you only need a couple. And if you’re concerned about having to wash all extra dishes afterward, do yourself a favor. Make sure your dishwasher is empty just before the party so you can easily put dirty dishes in there.

The second part of this is opting for cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Again, if you don’t have enough on hand Goodwill and Walmart are great places to grab some. If Walmart doesn’t have napkins, you can always grab some fat quarters of fabric from the crafting section to serve the same purpose.

Set up a crafting table

You can use your dining table, or a desk or folding table, but you’ll need a spot where you can put all your gift-making supplies and a place for everyone to work. This is particularly true if you plan to complete projects that require a sewing machine. Floor space is fine too, since many projects can be completed without a machine.

Homemade gift ideas

Here are some of the gifts you can make at your party, as well as a list of supplies you should provide for your guests. All of these are items you probably already have on hand or can readily grab at your local Walmart.

Fragrant bath salts

You’ll need: Epsom salt; baking soda; essential oils in the fragrances of your choice; moisturizing oil like jojoba or olive oil; any other additional natural ingredients you’d like to add (lavender buds, etc.); glass jars or containers for packaging; labels (for fragrances); bowls; metal spoons (not wood or plastic). Tutorial here.

Knotty bags

You’ll need: Silk scarves or a yard of fabric; and 2 bangles (optional). These bags are INCREDIBLY easy to make, and with the right fabric, they are beautiful! Tutorial here.

Natural candles

You’ll need: Soy or beeswax chips; double burner or glass jar and a deep sauce pan; essential oils for fragrance; glass jars, teacups or containers for packaging; wicks and stablizers; labels (for fragrances). Tutorial here.

Ribbon bulletin board

You’ll need: An old cork or bulletin board, wood or cardboard; fabric; ribbon, staple gun and/or hot glue gun; buttons or upholstery nailheads, brads, etc. Tutorial here.

Stretched fabric art

You’ll need: A canvas or wooden frame, fabric worthy of being hung on the wall (large-scale patterns tend to work best), staple gun, scissors. Tutorial here.

Recycled crayons in fun shapes

You’ll need: A bunch of broken, unwrapped crayons; baking dish or cookie sheet; cookie cutters or muffin pan with fun shapes. Tutorial here.

Homemade gift ideas are really easy to come by. You can visit the Gifts You Can Make Yourself page over in the Green Your Decor Green Gift Guide, or do a simple Google search. But the sooner you decide what you’re going to make, the sooner you can plan your supplies. My husband, daughter and I are having a small “party” of our own tonight to finish making gifts for some special people. We’re making candles and bath salts — because both projects are reasonably kid-friendly — and all our supplies cost us less than $50.

If you’re worried that you might not have enough of everything for your guests, ask them to bring simple items, like empty glass jars from their kitchen, that pack of printable labels that’s been sitting in their office for months, a package of cardstock for tags, etc.

Make it a gift-wrapping party, too

During the holidays, Americans produce a ridiculous amount of waste, mostly from gift wrap and shopping bags. Teach your guests alternative ways to wrap their gifts after they make them. Use newspaper, fabric, gift bags, repurposed baskets and boxes — anything but paper — to wrap your gifts. Make it a challenge to yourselves not to use any paper and give a small prize for the most creative gift wrap, voted upon by the guests.

This type of party is a great way to get all your last-minute gift giving (and wrapping) out of the way for very little money, and it’s a great way to spend time with friends.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation to share affordable holiday party ideas with you. Participation is voluntary and as usual, all opinions are my own. Check out more party ideas from my fellow Walmart Moms.

Main photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

By jennae

Hi! I'm Jennae Petersen and I'm the eco diva who had the bright idea to share my journey toward green living with the blogosphere. Some of you may know me as the founder of Green Your Decor, my blog about eco-friendly home decor, as a Walmart Mom, from Twitter or from my organic cotton t-shirt line Differently Clothing. Stick around for a while!

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