Yes, we’re all dreaming of a white Christmas (I’m guessing it’s not going to happen here in northern VA), but what about a green Christmas? This season includes a few decisions to make our Christmas celebrations a little more eco-friendly:
1) The wrapping! Making Christmas gifts festive and fun to unwrap is part of the fun of giving the gifts. Even the Grinch knew that taking the wrappings might put a damper on things as he left Who-ville: “he packed up his sled, packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!” (XMAS FUN 2012). But then again, according to Earth911, “wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S.” None of us wants to be a Grinch, so how can we green up the wrappings?
- If you want to wrap gifts in wrapping paper, why not try recycled paper? And follow your mom and grandma’s lead – reuse that wrapping paper!
- You can always wrap gifts in tissue paper (I use the tissue paper that’s stuck into dry cleaned clothes), fabric, or even the comics.
- Reuseable gift bags can be used year after year (I have some bags that have been through at least 5 Christmases).
2) The tree! OK, it’s the age-old debate – should we use a fresh tree? artificial? tree in a pot to be planted later? A few thoughts, then you make your own decision:
- Artificial trees – Here’s a fun fact from Earth911, “a U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacturer, the Addis Brush Company, created an artificial tree from brush bristles in the 1930s, acting as the prototype for modern artificial trees.” I’ll remember that tidbit, as I relax next to my beautiful fake tree that I enjoy year after year. Here’s the big con to artificial trees – most are made of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable metal and PVC. Thus, when you throw them away, they’ll sit in the landfill for many generations to come. Since my family keeps their artificial trees for decades (my mother has had her artificial tree for nearly 50 years), I’m not losing sleep over this con. A more troublesome issue with artificial trees -- most are produced overseas and must be shipped to the U.S. – think fossil fuels and pollution in production and shipping (Earth911 2012). If you’ve decided on a fake tree, GoodHousekeeping has some recommendations regarding brands to try.
- Real trees – Most experts agree that this is the more eco-friendly option. Over 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year, and 93% of those trees are recycled into mulch (Earth911 2012). Additionally, Earth911 (2012) reports that a single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 in its lifetime! The cons? Since Christmas trees are an agricultural product, we can expect application of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, unless they’re grown organically. Additionally, if you don’t live in an area where conifers grow naturally, add the cost of tree transport into your eco-footprint calculation (Earth911 2012). If you do get a real tree, just say no to the plastic mesh wrapping.
- Real LIVE trees – The most eco-friendly option. Buy a live, potted tree, which you can keep in your house for about 1 – 1 1/2 weeks and then plant outdoors after the holidays.
3) The cards! I come from a proud line of Christmas card senders and Christmas letter writers. So how can we green up this annual tradition?
- Send cards and letters online. Friends and family can read about your adventures in the past year, and then save, print, or delete!
- Try one of the eco-friendly card companies, using soy inks and recycled paper.
- Send cards that support a green organization, such as the cards made by the National Wildlife Association or World Wildlife Fund.
4) The gifts! There are actually fun green gifts that don’t lead to forced smiles and insincere thank yous!
- For the animal lovers in your family! Through many organizations, you can symbolically “adopt” an animal, and receive a plush toy, certificate of adoption, and a poster or photograph. Young children get a toy and wildlife organizations get badly needed financial support. Some of the programs I’ve enjoyed in the past include the National Zoo’s “Adopt a Species”, National Wildlife Federation’s Adoption Center, and World Wildlife Fund’s Species Adoptions.
- Do you have a bike? By giving bikes to not just the kids, but also the adults in the family, you’ll be encouraging the option of green transportation for local trips (plus you might lose a few of those Christmas cookie pounds!)
- How about a new set of non-teflon coated cookware? Have you been wanting to upgrade your cooking utensils? By trading up for pots and pans that AREN’T coated in teflon, you’ll be reducing your family’s exposure to many harmful chemicals.
- Got an avid gardener in the family, or do you want to become one? Christmas is the perfect time to set someone up for a successful butterfly or vegetable garden in 2013 – garden tools, seeds, composting equipment, even rainbarrels are gifts that your family can enjoy throughout the year. Birdfeeders and bird baths are a nice addition to any garden. If you really want to go all out, how about beekeeping equipment?
- Lifelong learning! Gift certificates for classes are a waste-free gift that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Be it cooking, archery, knitting, photography, or architecture classes – you know they’ll love it!
- How about a gift that lets the receiver enjoy the great outdoors? Camping equipment was my gift at my last birthday! Not into camping? Think “roughing it” is a black and white TV? Then how about binoculars or a field guide for an aspiring bird or butterfly watcher, or a camera for the budding nature photographer?
Want more great ideas on how to green your holidays? Check out EarthEasy’s tips for green gift giving, wrapping, and lighting.
From the greenmomster’s house to yours, we wish you a very merry and GREEN holiday season!
Earth911. 2012. Facts About Recycling Wrapping Paper. Accessed 11/29/12. http://earth911.com/recycling/paper/wrapping-paper/facts-about-recycling-wrapping-paper/
EarthEasty. 2012. How to have a ‘green’ Christmas. Accessed 11/29/12. http://eartheasy.com/give_sustainchristmas.htm
GoodHousekeeping. 2012. Getting an Artificial Christmas Tree! Choose This Type. You’ll save resources and reduce risk of toxins. Accessed 11/29/12. http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/artificial-christmas-trees-buy-american
XMAS FUN. 2012. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Accessed 11/29/12. http://xmasfun.com/stories/Grinch/Text.asp
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