While we make merry, the planet suffers during the holiday season, when Americans throw away 25 percent more trash than usual, most of it gifts and packaging. How can you show your love to friends and family without breaking the bank or overburdening the environment?

Learn how to knit. Seriously. This American tradition isn't just for librarians and grandmas anymore. Madonna and Julia Roberts, among others, are avid knitters, and Tracey Ullman has written Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun. Real men do it, too. Knitting is a culturally sustainable activity that produces useful, all-natural, biodegradable works of art, and you can do it while riding the bus or carpooling to work (unless you’re the driver).

Not sure where to begin? Visit Learn to Knit, which has extensive instructions and diagrams on knitting and crocheting, as well as supply resources, patterns, and a discussion forum. The hilarious Mason-Dixon Knitting website provides free patterns. Sample eco-friendly yarns from Hemp for Knitting or Blue Sky Alpaca. Green Mountain Spinnery has organically grown and processed wools, all naturally dyed, and they also have a book of patterns. If you’d rather go local, use this quick finder to locate a yarn store in your area.

What to make? Some of our favorite holiday knitting projects are this gingerbread man, this fashionable little scarf, this sweater (not for beginners), and of course, a Christmas tree.

Much better than fruitcake.

Story by Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008