By now, you’re probably acquainted with the beginning-to-get-tired term “staycation.” Sure, making use of local parks, engaging in recreational activities, and embarking on backyard camp-outs are excellent, low-CO2 alternatives to traveling during the summer but during the winter months when cabin fever sets in, you might end up cursing yourself for not booking that trip to Maui. I mean, really, how many times during a 10-day stretch can you visit the Sparta Teapot Museum, play backgammon with the neighbors, and clean out the garage? Not too many, I’m guessing.

If you do plan on sticking close to home during the holidays, it helps to plan ahead so you don’t end up spending your well-deserved time off reenacting scenes from The Shining or counting down the minutes until your holiday staycation from hell is over. Below are 10 ways to make good, green use of your free time around the casa if you're voluntarily housebound. While they may not be the most sexy or glamorous ways to pass the time, these are activities that you’ll probably thank yourself later for doing. Let’s get to it …

• Perform energy-efficient home improvements: Now that “cash for caulkers” is one step closer to becoming a reality, it’s an opportune time to embark on home improvements that will lower both your utility bills and your carbon footprint. Support your local green job force by hiring a home energy auditing team to inspect your abode. It could prove to be an enlightening daylong diversion and you could tempt kindly auditors with any leftover desserts that you’re trying to get rid of. If you already know the problem areas around your home, perform low-cost DIY weatherization projects like caulking, placing shrink wrap plastic over drafty windows, installing foam outlet gaskets, or making a homemade draft stopper. 

• Read a book: Lounging around the house while everyone else is behind the wheel or freaking out at the airport is a primo excuse to catch up on reading. Some recommended green home and garden-themed titles published this year: Architecture in Times of Need, Eco House Book, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home, Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, PreFab Green, Super Natural Home, and Green: Architecture Now!. 

• Watch a movie: While heading out (preferably via public transportation) to catch a movie at your local multiplex is always an option, why not stick around the house and cozy up with a green film that you’ve been meaning to see but haven’t had the chance to watch? MNN has a solid list of the top 10 environmental documentaries of 2009 or, if you’d like a good holiday scare, check out my recommended eco-themed horror films.

• Indulge the kids: Yes, you read that right. If you got ‘em, lure the little ones away from the Wii for a hot minute (or couple of hours) and plan a fun family activity that involves creative crafting, eco-education, recycling and energy conservation tutorials, and so on. MNN family blogger Jenn frequently posts engaging ways to give QT with the rugrats an eco-edge.

• Clean house: Is your home, for one reason or another, a perpetual sty? Go on a daylong cleaning rampage while experimenting with eco-friendly cleaning methods and products that you haven’t tried out before. Check out my “Back to basics” series of posts that feature old-school, natural cleaning and laundering products like 20 Mule Team Borax and Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. If purging your home of unnecessaries is part of your cleaning regimen, make sure to donate, not dump, when possible. 

• Reintroduce yourself to the kitchen: Even if you aren’t a culinary genius, why not take advantage of a staycation by trying out some new recipes that you’ve been meaning to tackle? MNN food blogger Robin is an excellent source of local, seasonal, and organic ingredient-based meal ideas for aspiring or established foodies with a bit of spare time (to mess up and experiment) on their hands.

• Paint the house green: Painting a single room can be a loooong process that involves not only paint time but significant commitment to prep and clean up. With all the free time, why not give two rooms a makeover using low/no-VOC paints like Natura from Benjamin Moore?

• Go treasure hunting: Visiting flea markets, estate sales and antique stores in search of furniture and home accessories cannot be a harried experience … you need ample time to really peruse the merch before finding a diamond in the rough. Commit an entire day to antiquing and then head straight home and spruce up a room or two with your secondhand finds. If you have an eye for DIY, transform ragtag previously owned purchases into completely new and fetching creations. 

• Go (home) steady: Although wintertime may not be the best time to give up modern creature comforts and try your hand at self-reliance, why not give it a shot? The modern homesteading movement is quickly picking up steam as many suburban and urbanites experiment with low-impact, countrified ways of life. Try canning, homebrewing, composting, growing your own food, knitting ... the possibilities are endless as long as you have an open mind. 


Have any more housebound holiday staycation ideas that you'd like to share?

Photo: Josiehen

MNN homepage photo: pallll/iStockPhoto

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Home for the holidays
Sticking around town over the holidays? Plan ahead with these 10 eco-friendly ways to pass the time at home.