Smart Holiday Packaging

smart-holiday-packagingDuring the holiday season nothing carries good cheer and holiday spirit across the miles like receiving a package full of homemade treats.

If you go to the effort of preparing food gifts, you want to be sure the contents arrive in the condition they were sent in. The first step is to pack it right.

  • Select a strong sturdy cardboard, plastic, or metal container. Round oatmeal boxes or coffee cans with re-closable lids work well.
  • On the bottom of the container place a generous layer of filler, such as crumped tissue paper, waxed paper, brown paper bags or plastic bubble wrap.
  • Next, wrap baked goods individually or in pairs placed back to back. Begin with the sturdiest first. Moist, firm baked goods ship better than the brittle kind. Brownies, fudge and moist cookies pack well. Top with another layer of filler and repeat ending with a thick layer of filler.
  • Fill the container full so the contents can’t shift when it is shaken.
  • Be sure to pack several inches of cushioning material in the bottom of the shipping carton and enough material around, over and between items so that the contents cannot move easily. Brown paper bags and newspaper provide adequate cushioning for most packages. Save Styrofoam peanuts or foam packing pieces in packages for use when cushioning your packages.
  • Place a card with the address of the sender and the receiver inside the carton, just in case.
  • Wrap the carton in heavy brown paper, if desired, and seal it securely with transparent packing tape. Clearly label the carton; put the transparent tape over the address to keep it from getting wet and smeared. Mark it “perishable” to encourage careful handling. One of the best ideas yet is to give a gift within a gift that serves as its own alternative wrapping. Great tasting recipes become even more special when attractively packaged for giving.
  • Embellish small metal coffee tins for packaging tiny truffles or other candies. Replace plastic tops to seal.
  • Consider using an empty potato chip canister for packaging. Cover it with Christmas wrapping paper, fill it with cookies, candies or salty snacks, and replace its plastic top to seal.
  • Fill a Christmas stocking with a favorite snack mix or nut mix. Package the mix in a re-sealable plastic bag and tuck it and holiday napkins into the stocking.
  • Top off decorative jars of homemade desert sauces or jelly with raffia or decorative ribbon. Attach a homemade gift tag and a spoon.
  • Bake and transport homemade bread in light weight recyclable aluminum pans available at most supermarkets. Wrap pans of bread with a large linen napkin or place bread in gift bags and tie with holiday ribbon.
  • When giving a variety of foods together, include items to be eaten with your goodies or utensils that might be needed for further preparation.

Remember it’s the thought behind the holiday package that counts; the link with loved ones and the knowledge that someone is thinking of you during the holiday season. A package filled with homemade treats says “love” with every bite.

Celebrate Earth Day, Then Make Earth Day Every Day!

Earth Day

Earth Day is honored around the world on April 22, with many festivals, activities and events being held in in the weeks prior. April 22 marks Earth Day. Help build a better future and preserve Mother Earth by committing to protect our environment year-round.

The origin of Earth Day is linked to the 1969 Santa Barbara, California oil spill. Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, envisioned protecting the nation’s environment after the massive oil spill in California. This led to a movement to increase awareness of environmental pollution. Nelson, partnered with Congressman Pete McCloskey and Denis Hayes of Harvard University to put the Earth Day plan in motion. Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was the catalyst to increase environmental awareness and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Hayes further expanded the Earth Day movement in 1990 into a global event.

Why do we need an Earth Day? Because it works! Earth Day broadens the base of support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities.

What can I do for Earth Day? The possibilities for getting involved are endless! Volunteer. Change a habit. Plant a garden. Do something nice for the Earth. April 22 marks Earth Day. Mark your calendar to attend an event or do something positive to preserve your little piece of Mother Earth.

A few Earth Day Events

Earth Day Bay County, April 9, 2016 10 am to 4 pm at McKenzie Park. The University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History will host an Earth Day Exploration on Saturday, April 16, 2016 from 10 am to 3 pm. Earth Day Pensacola, April 23, 2016 10 am to 4 pm. .

A “Green” Holiday

A “Green” Holiday

Green Gift Giving

Green Gift Giving

The holiday season will soon be upon us. A Green Holiday focuses on finding ways to reduce consumption by using renewable resources and reusing or repurposing objects. Practicing these principles can fit in line with holiday celebrations, making it a time of sustaining traditions as well as helping the environment. Here are some fun ideas for greening your holiday season when it comes to wrapping gifts.

It is not about sacrifice; it is about an opportunity to…..


  • Wrap gifts with brown paper bags, newspaper, or reused wrapping paper.
  • Create personal wrapping paper with stamps or collages, or drawing on paper bags.
  • Avoid wrapping altogether and tie a large bow around an item instead.
  • Make the wrapping part of the gift such as using reusable tins, planting pots, or new towels.
  • Give presents or gift certificates from local businesses.
  • Focus on homemade or non-traditional gifts such as baked goods, plants, fishing licenses, dance classes, travel mugs, local art, or battery chargers.
  • If giving appliances or electronics, make sure they are Energy Star-certified.
  • Make donations in someone’s name to charities or conservation organizations. Investigate to see if any organization in the area is offering an alternative giving holiday festival.
  • Give “time”.  Help an older relative with difficult chores or take children to a park.
  • Teach someone a skill or talent you have.


Investing time and creativity into the holiday can help make it more fulfilling and meaningful for you, your family, and your friends.


Thankful for Jane

Happy Child with Peanut Butter Sandwich

Happy Child with Peanut Butter Sandwich

November in the Panhandle of Florida. Time for pumpkins, cooler weather, hay rides, football games, harvesting cotton and peanuts, and of course, Thanksgiving.  It’s also time for the annual Peanut Butter Challenge!  We gather peanut butter to give to those who could use a little help feeding their families.  Why peanut butter?  It is the most requested item in food pantries, it’s shelf stable – you don’t have to heat it up or keep it cold, people like it – a lot, it’s economical – especially if it’s a buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO), it’s local – peanuts are the biggest crop in the Florida panhandle, and it’s healthy – a great source of plant-based protein.

So what about Jane? Jane’s been a consistent contributor to the Peanut Butter Challenge every year.  This may not seem like a very big deal, but you see, Jane is allergic to peanut butter.  This may not seem like such a big deal either, but to me, it’s like giving time to help out the blood drive even though you can’t give blood, walking in Relay for Life to show support for cancer research though you have no money to give, giving money to a charity because you have it and it feels like the right thing to do.

So whether you give because of your competitive spirit – “my group can give more than theirs”, you have a couple extra dollars and there is a BOGO, because it makes you feel good knowing how much the receiving families appreciate it, or you just feel like it’s the right thing to do, please give to the Peanut Butter Challenge.

And be thankful – for peanut butter … and Jane.

To find out more about the Peanut Butter Challenge or how you can give by November 25, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension County office in the Northwest District UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Let’s Donate and Recycle Our Electronics

Let’s Donate and Recycle Our Electronics

Electronic DevicesDid you know that Floridians throw away 8 pounds of garbage per day? That is double the national average. This is not something to be proud of but it leaves a lot of room for improvement!

Many times when I frequent my housing facility’s dumpster, a computer will be sitting by the side. Does someone think that another resident will take care of properly disposing of it? Think again – it probably will end up in the landfill and will remain there for years. What a waste!

Electronic products are made from valuable materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 homes in the U.S. in a year. For every one million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Before you donate or recycle your used electronics, do the following:

  • Consider your purchase of a new device – could you upgrade the hardware or software instead of buying a brand new one?
  • Delete all personal information.
  • Remove any batteries; they may need to be recycled separately.

And now the question is where to donate or recycle items? Many manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics. Go to for instructions offered by many companies on where/how you can recycle mobile devices, personal computers, and even televisions.

Think about it…..with just a little more effort, another item can be saved from our already overloaded landfills. You can be a part of the solution for cutting down on waste in Florida.


Think About It!

Think About It!

Leon County's sustainable rainwater cisterns

Leon County Extension’s sustainable rainwater cisterns collect rainwater from the rooftop and use the water from the cisterns to irrigate the demonstration garden.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the term “sustainability” has emerged as a result of significant concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of rapid growth.  Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Therefore, sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in harmony, fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.

WHEW!  Think about it! Sustainability is important to making sure that we have, and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect our health and our environment.

Think about it!  Water, for instance. Though we might see water as an abundant resource in Florida, water is emerging as a sustainability issue sparking debate and illustrating the differences in opinions of various water users in Florida. Consider these facts:

  • Heavy demand: High levels of commercial, real estate, and agricultural development have caused withdrawals to increase over time, putting pressure on natural resources.
  • Changes in water use: Agricultural production and public supply are the largest users of freshwater resources in Florida. Large demands occur in municipal water supply systems as a result of landscape irrigation of lawns and golf courses.
  • Environmental consequences: Depletion of groundwater resources can have negative environmental consequences, such as saltwater intrusion into freshwater resources and sinkhole development.
  • Water use strategies: Strategies to balance water use include reducing the overall demand for water (through such means as increased water prices or restrictions) or increasing the supply of water (through such means as desalination of seawater).
  • Water quality: Recent EPA nutrient requirements designed to protect water quality.

Just think about it! Just like there are many levels of sustainability, each and every one of us can draw from advances in science and technology to protect not only our health but the environment.

Just think about it! And then take action. The EPA website has data specific to your area of interest. Information on air, water, land, community, health, and energy can be visualized on a map, downloaded, and printed.

Think about it!  Individuals can make a difference! A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Each of us can promote practices to strengthen our natural environment and quality of life, ultimately improving the quality of life for everyone.



UF/IFAS FCS 7242 Understanding Sustainability: The Importance of Sustainable Development and Comprehensive Plans—Goals, Objectives, Policies

UF/IFAS WC151 Water Issues in Florida: How Extension Can Facilitate Stakeholder Engagement and Involvement