Teach Green Living with Gingerbread Houses

While big and beautiful gingerbread houses are enjoyable on holiday tours and  Christmas-themed food shows, they don’t seem to represent the average home. Many families are making major green improvements to their living that can be highlighted and celebrated while enjoying a favorite holiday past time, gingerbread house decorating. This year, teach green living with gingerbread houses to show young ones how your actions can make a difference towards a positive future.

Eco-themed gingerbread hosue
Eco-themed gingerbread house

Gingerbread Recipe

This is the recipe we’ve always used in our family. We use olive oil for everything but you can substitute vegetable oil. Granulated sugar can also be used in place of the sukanat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (we use a half and half mix of whole and bleached flour)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sucanat 
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons and a pinch ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Directions
    In a small bowl mix all the spices and baking soda and set aside. Mix the oil, butter and sugars together. Add the egg and continue mixing while gradually adding the molasses. Now add the vanilla and spices and then gradually add the two cups of flour. Once all incorporated you’ll have a slightly crumby dough that will come together nicely when molded by hand. Roll into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator for one hour. You can roll the dough into cookies or the house parts. You’ll bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Allow gingerbread to sit for another few minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

    {cc photo courtesy of marshlight  on Flickr}

    extravagant gingerbread house
    Extravagant gingerbread house

    Teaching Sustainable Living

    The wonderful thing about gingerbread decorating is using your imagination even more than the actual decorations. Colorful candies become flowers, rolled gum becomes cabbage from the garden and sticks of gum wrapped around Lifesavers create a rain bin with a tiny hose reaching the garden. Another thing to mention to children is living within your means. The idea that bigger is better is best critiqued while working on your gingerbread house. Discuss the minimal items needed for living used on a daily basis.

    {cc photo courtesy of kudumomo on Flickr}

    greening the gingerbread house
    Greening the gingerbread house

    Talking About Green Energy

    Solar panels are easily created sticks of gum or colorful round candies. Have children search with you online for real life examples of solar and wind energy. Windmills are easily made from wafer cookies, pretzels or even ice cream cones like the one above. Add large windows and skylights for natural lighting. Even creating little curtains can help teach energy efficiency and allow children to become part of closing and opening the curtains at home dependent on the time of year.

    {cc photo courtesy of UK in Canada on Flickr}

    organic molasses
    Organic molasses

    Learning About Fair Trade and Organic

    Choosing fair trade candies for decorating is a good conversation opener for talking about workers around the world. It’s important children learn about the hard and often dangerous work done for our benefit. The same can be said about choosing organic ingredients for the decorations and the gingerbread ingredients. Children who learn about healthy living are more likely to continue incorporating it into their lives as adults. These two ideas offer great lessons to help children become better shoppers later or to remind you of appropriate choices on your next visit to the grocery store.

    {cc photo courtesy of Chiot’s Run on Flickr}

    Do you make gingerbread houses? What types of features do you and your family like to include?






About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at www.viviannelsonmelle.com and www.craftyvivi.com

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