Sunday, December 8, 2013

Going Green: Tips for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Snowy weather, cozy fires, gift-giving, and time spent with family and friends… there are many wonderful things to enjoy during the holiday season; but amongst the hustle and bustle of decking the halls, it is easy to lose sight of our environmental conscience.  
Unfortunately, Christmas is not very friendly to our environment, with household waste increasing as much as 25% during the holiday season—that’s a lot of holiday cheer headed to the landfill!  And our household budgets aren’t the only ones taking a hit this time of year:  all of the traveling and consumption (in the form of gift purchases) that occurs this time of year takes a toll on our global carbon dioxide emissions budget as well.  But don't despair: making a few thoughtful choices and putting in a little extra effort can make your Christmas much greener.

The Tree

Choose a live tree:  the ultimate “green” option, purchasing a live tree will allow you to have the experience of a traditional Christmas tree without the guilt of having to cut one down (am I the only one who feels conscience-stricken about toppling a beautiful tree?). After the holidays, your live tree can be planted in your yard and enjoyed for years to come.  If you’re looking for something less-traditional, you can choose a fruit tree such as apple, cherry, or plum: these trees are a practical choice and will provide gifts of their own within a few years!

Avoid artificial trees:  if you do not have the yard space to accommodate planting a live tree, your next best option is to choose a cut tree instead of purchasing an artificial one.  But isn’t it better to save a real tree and choose a fake one instead?  It might seem like it on the surface, but when you consider all of the fossil fuels and other chemicals that went into manufacturing and shipping the artificial tree, you’d be much greener choosing the real tree.  Studies have shown that you would have to use your artificial tree for more than twenty years in order for it to be a “greener” option than cutting down a fresh tree every year.

Plant a tree: consider making a donation to conservation groups such as the Arbor Day Foundation  in the spirit of “offsetting” your Christmas tree by having them plant a new one for you.

Decorate your tree with energy-efficient LED lights and reusable/recycled ornaments.

Adorable sleeping kitties make wonderful tree decorations, too!

Give experiences instead of things:  instead of purchasing someone a gift that they might not want or cannot use, consider instead giving them tickets to a show or sporting event, taking them for a hike or outdoor adventure, cooking them a meal, or offering to assist with any housework, yardwork or other projects they might need help with.

Donate: another option for the hard-to-shop-for person is to donate to a charity in their name.  Look for a charity whose mission focuses on an issue close to the gift recipient’s heart.

Use re-useable or recyclable wrapping:  newspapers, maps, posters, scarves, baskets, tins, recycled gift bags… the options are limited only by your imagination. Also be sure to re-use ribbons and bows, or go for an eco-chic look by dressing packages up with pinecones or sprigs of berries, pine, or holly.

The Meal

Whether you’re preparing a traditional holiday meal with turkey and all the trimmings, or something non-traditional such as tacos (it has been done!), be sure to purchase organic, locally grown food wherever possible.  Organic food results in less pesticides/chemicals in our environment and on your dinner plate, and locally grown food supports local farmers and means a smaller carbon footprint for your meal.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to make your holidays greener… it just takes a conscious effort and thoughtful decisions, which will add up to a truly memorable season.

Do you have additional “green” holiday tips? Please share in the comments below!

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