Have you become a Christmas Scrooge? Grumbling about how much you are spending, year after year. Do you simply shop by making clicks on the computer sending gifts here and there? Let’s see if we can green up the Holidays a bit.
Here are my Ten Commandments for a green Christmas:
• Consider buying locally whenever possible. Not only does it reduce transportation (as opposed to the internet) but it will benefit your community, as well. Have you ever thought about giving antiques? They are the epitome of recycling and reuse. How about passing down a true family heirloom.
• Make a list of items you intend to purchase and at which stores they are located. This will help you reduce the number of trips you make, reducing your gas, and will help you reduce impulse buying. Remember to bring along your own tote bags!
• If you’re sending your gifts by mail, try sending small, lightweight items, rather than big, heavy ones.
• Wrapping paper! I’ve made it my personal pledge to never again purchase wrapping paper. As soon as I run out of what I have, I will switch to paper bags, making fabric ones. If wrapping paper is shiny or sparkly, it can’t even be recycled!
Every year, about 6 1/2 million holiday cards are sold in the United States. For several years I have saved cards, cut them with decorative scissors, and reused them as gift tags.
• If you put up lights on the house or tree, switch to LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. LED lights use up to 95 percent less energy and produce less heat, making them safer (their color is actually brighter and more intense). They cost more initially, but they last 10 times longer. (Recycling sites accept old Christmas lights.)
If you are decorating with candles, soy wax or beeswax are both made from renewable resources. Paraffin is made from petroleum. (Safety tip: Never put candles on the back of a toilet, clothing and hair can catch fire!)
• For holiday parties, if the group will be too large to use your own place settings and flatware, rent them. Avoid using disposable.
• If you’re planning to travel just to have a vacation (rather than to visit family) consider staying home and save your carbon budget on high-emissions travel (saves gas money, too).
• Get Crafty! Get in touch with your creative side; dig through your closets, go through your drawers, basement, and attic. What items do you have hiding there that you can craft into a wonderful gift? Old ties, belts, cigar boxes, sweaters (cut them up and make mittens!) quilts, blankets, and all sorts of things can be re-worked into a very personal and unique gift. Best of all, it’s free (except for your labor) and the recipient will probably cherish it more because you made it.
Holidays don’t have to be expensive, nor do you have to give up unique, quality, fun gifts to be ecologically-wise! With a few adjustments here and there, your gift giving can be one of the more rewarding things you do for your family and friends – and, the planet! Happy Holidays Earth!
-- Lynn Youngblood is the Executive Director of the Blue River Watershed Association; a certified Residential Energy Client Service Coordinator by the National Energy Retrofit Institute; and a former nature center manager for over 17-years with the Missouri Department of Conservation.