An estimated 25 million extra tons of trash is generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. All the wrapping paper, plastic cups, tinsel and other throwaways add up quickly, not to mention the gas spent on countless trips to stores. Some small changes in the ways you give, get, decorate and entertain can ensure a great green holiday.
A Christmas without a tree is unthinkable. You can still have a tree, deck the halls and be green with planning.
1. Look for a farm in your area that grows its trees using organic methods. Most live trees aren’t from forests but farms, where they’re raised like any other crop, so having a live tree doesn’t mean cutting down a venerable old evergreen.
2. Purchase a tree with the roots attached or in a pot, then plant it in your yard— without the tinsel of course—after the holidays. In a few years, you’ll have your own fir forest.
3. Decorate a pine tree already growing in your yard instead of buying a tree. It’s a lovely old tradition the whole neighborhood can enjoy.
4. Keep and use your fake plastic tree if you already have one. While they’re made using petroleum, a nonrenewable resource, the resources have already been used, the money’s been spent, and pitching it will just mean more junk for the landfill.
5. Choose super-efficient LED lights. They’re more expensive than traditional twinkle lights, but they burn 80 to 90percent less energy and are cool to the touch. (Swapping LED lights for regular lights on the 80-foot tree in Rockefeller Center saved as much energy in a day as a family uses in a month.)
6. Use pinecones, handmade paper snowflakes or vintage decorations rather than buying new ornaments. Popcorn and cranberry garlands are fun to make, and the birds will appreciate them afterward.
7. Use holly, ivy and other natural greenery, maybe even from your own yard or garden, to decorate.
8. Recycle your tree. Many cities pick up discarded Christmas trees on a specific day, then have them turned into mulch to be used in local parks. (Contact your local sanitation department or check www.earth911.org).
Gathering with the people you care about is the best part of the holiday season. This year, rather than exchanging gifts, invite friends over for a big party.
1. Use real plates, napkins and flatware, not plastic or paper that gets thrown away when the party’s over. If you don’t have enough plates, rent them or buy inexpensive ones. You’ll get your money back in just a few years of use.
2. Plan your menu around foods that are in season where you live. Lots of gas is burned shipping fruits and vegetables from warm climates every winter. Think pumpkin pie, not strawberry tart.
3. Burn candles made of beeswax or soy instead of candles made of petroleum products.
4. Fill a bowl with pomegranates or your favorite citrus fruit for a beautiful, edible centerpiece.
Giving & Receiving
Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach, and a light feeling in your wallet, looking at your list of presents to buy? Shortening your list can save money and reduce waste.
1. Try drawing names or giving only to the children, rather than exchanging gifts with everyone.
2. Give experiences instead of stuff: Gift certificates for a massage, music downloads or a favorite restaurant; tickets to a sporting event, play or concert are all good choices. Another option: donations to a favorite charity.
3. Buy as much as you can from local stores and artisans, or order gifts online to save gas-guzzling trips to the mall.
4. Use recycled or reusable materials for wrapping. Old newspapers, fabric, maps, even brown paper bags can look festive with a pretty bow. Make the wrapping part of the gift by presenting it in a pretty scarf, bag or basket.
5. Nix the faux-peanut packing materials and use shredded junk mail instead. Real peanuts in the shell, stuffing from old pillows or dry pasta can also cushion presents for shipping.
6. Send holiday greetings electronically. Create an e-card or post an online photo slide show at your family Web site.
7. Start a new tradition. In the Middle Ages, Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, was a time for local landowners to give gifts to those less fortunate, or so the legend goes. Make that tradition your own by setting aside December 26 to package up clothes, toys and household goods to be donated to local charities.
8. Don’t throw away holiday cards after you’ve read them. Cut the decorated fronts into squares to make gift tags for next year’s presents.