A Green Christmas

Holidays are the epitome of waste, excess, and inefficiency, yet we love them and should not have to feel bad about enjoying them. What we need to do is move into the 21st century with respect to the way we decorate and celebrate. We can support a sustainable planet this holiday season by incorporating more economical and ecological habits into our traditions.

Christmas trees can now be rented or purchased alive. Christmas tree vendors are now renting live trees, in their pots, that you can use for the holidays and then return. The vendor then keeps the tree alive till the next season. Some people buy live trees and then plant them in their yards when the holiday is over. Either choice saves millions of trees.

Christmas cards waste an enormous amount of paper, from the cards to the envelopes, only to end up in landfills. This year consider sending an e-card; that way you can send loving thoughts of the season while showing your love for the planet.  Not to mention the savings on purchasing paper (or recycled) cards and postage.

Wrapping paper is another tradition whose time has passed.  I cringe every year as all the paper is ripped and crumbled in a few minutes time before heading to the nearest landfill.  Consider wrapping presents with newspaper and magazine sheets, or even fabric. You can buy a roll of fabric and cut it with pinking shears and re-use the wrapping again next year. And by all means, save and reuse any and all gift bags.

Think about buying gifts this year that are made from recycled materials, or that are used from thrift stores or from flea markets and those that are environmentally friendly.  If you are buying the latest electronic gadgets, be sure to dispose of discarded items at an electronic recycle center or sell them online to an electronic recycler.

Cut back on your Christmas lighting and switch some or all of your lights to LEDs. LEDs use only 10% of the electricity required by incandescent bulbs. Use good energy conservation practices in your kitchen by monitoring your use of the oven (use the microwave or toaster oven whenever possible) and controlling how long you leave your refrigerator door open.

Don’t buy more food than you can eat. Use leftover vegetables to make soup after the holiday. If you have extra food, share by donating it to a local charity or soup kitchen. Millions of tons of food are thrown away over the holidays when it could be feeding the hungry right in your own backyard.  Contact your local food charities and soup kitchens and find out how and where to donate leftovers.[How about mentioning composting?]

Gift Giving –  This is perhaps the most important tradition to begin rethinking. We are, after all, in a recession largely as a result of spending more money than we have. While spending money on gifts has a positive ripple effect on the economy, spending money we don’t have has a negative one.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t give gifts, although we do go way overboard creating tons of unnecessary and cumulative waste each holiday season. What I’m saying is to reconsider what you are giving.  Below is a list of more sustainable gift ideas for the holidays.

–         Give a potted tree or plant – be green by giving the gift of life, oxygen, and shade.

–         Have re-gifting parties and trade items that you don’t want.

–         Turn old items into new ones – an old pot into a planter, etc.

–         Re-gift your presents from last year to someone else this year.

–         Buy at flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores.

–         Give green products, i.e., LEDs, CFLs, Reusable Water and Coffee Containers, Canvas Shopping Bags, Toxic Free Cleaning Supplies, Solar Powered Gadgets, and Recycled, Organic and/or Fair Trade Products. [lowercase the first letter in these items]

–         Give YOUR SERVICES: yard work, car washes (both good for kids), Internet training, consulting, graphics, photography, etc.

–         Give FOOD; with record high unemployment, people need food!  Even the affluent love to eat. Make a basket of store-bought food or bake/cook something. Everyone needs and enjoys food.  For more info go to my Magazine at www.SavingGreenMagazine.com

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