14 Ways Of Christmas
Making the holidays green is easier than you think.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
One of the core principles of the green movement is celebration, to enjoy the bounty of the Earth and give thanks for friends, family and a rich harvest.
With this in mind, it is easy to bring green ideals into the coming holiday season. In fact, simply getting together with the people in your community and sharing a locally grown meal would be a deeply “green” event. Unfortunately, our culture’s enormous increase in consumption from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has a negative impact on the planet.
We travel more, we eat and drink more, we decorate everything in sight and we shop, and shop, and shop some more.
A goal of the green movement is to metaphorically step lightly on the planet and return to a balance with nature. It’s easy and fun when you follow simple guidelines; we all can make a difference and hand the next generation a world to be proud of.
So beyond moderation, here are a few other green ideas that will help you have a great green holiday season, and give the planet the break it needs.
1. Consider “already loved” items. This means second-hand goods, from clothes, to furniture, to music, to books. Also “regifting” something that someone gave you.
2. Pick a name and/or an organization. Rather then getting several small gifts for everyone in your household, pick names out of a hat and get one big gift for that person. For people who don’t need anything else, donate to a needy organization.
3. Make your own gift cards. Almost 2 billion cards are sent during the holidays, and one year of gift cards equals about 300,000 trees. Maybe you can cut out the paper cards this year and send a note via the Internet. Or use last year’s cards and send them back to the folks who sent them to you.
4. Decorate naturally. Use strings of popcorn and cranberries to decorate the tree, and add squash, fruits, fallen twigs and pine boughs to the hearth. When you’re done with the decorations everything can be added to your compost bin.
5. Skip long-distance travel. Flying from San Francisco to New York uses about three barrels of oil per person. This season, stay close to home and promise yourself to visit a local attraction you’ve never been to before and take the bus to get there. Also, give gifts that promote safe, alternative methods of transportation.
6. Shop locally. Independent, locally owned businesses lessen sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution. These businesses strengthen our community and usually provide owners and employees with meaningful, living-wage jobs.
7. Ditch the packaging. Excessive packaging piles up in landfills and oceans and can remain intact for hundreds of years. Try leaving excessive packaging at the counter and say you want the supplier to offer reduced or biodegradable packaging. Avoid Styrofoam. Always bring your own canvas bag to the store.
8. Frequent farmers markets. Most foods travel 1,500 miles from the place they’re grown to the place they’re eaten. For every one calorie of food energy, at least 10 fossil-fuel calories are used from mechanized harvesting, pesticides/fertilizers, packaging and transportation. Try giving a beautiful bowl of tangerines and persimmons, or a gift basket containing honey, almonds and a fine local wine.
9. Offer a coupon. Giving your time is probably the best gift of all. Or get together with your friends, family and neighbors to build a wood-fired hot tub, a rain-harvesting system, a food-producing garden or a rammed-earth community bench.
10. Plant it. Giving and planting trees is one great way to reduce greenhouse gases. Depending on the tree you buy, you can cut carbon dioxide by several tons per year. Plant fruit-producing trees and then enjoy fruit out of the backyard.
11. Encourage the muse. Support local artists, musicians, poets, and local art schools and supply stores.
12. Oh Christmas tree. Artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride, and use lead to stabilize the PVC. If you buy a live-cut tree, get it from a small-scale sustainable grower who doesn’t use pesticides and herbicides. Or go for a live tree that you can plant.
13. Gift wrapping with a twist. Try cutting out the regular wrapping paper, which usually ends up in landfills. Wrap presents with old sheet music or maps, the comics, paper bags decorated with a bit of ribbon, last year’s holiday paper, your kids’ artwork, or this paper.
14. The great outdoors. Get your giftee outdoors and open a whole new world for him or her.
Deborah Lindsay is a green event and lifestyle consultant, and independent radio host of “Tomorrow Matters,” which airs weekdays from 2 to 3 pm on KRXA 540 AM. Contact her about your green business or service at email@example.com.