With all the talk about "going green" or trying to "live green", there are some occasions where green kinda goes out the window. Christmas is notoriously one of them.
With a season full of excess (spending, eating, drinking, etc.), thinking about environmental implications isn't high on the list. But this is a different year. Everyone is re-thinking their budgets in the wake of the financial crisis that has gripped our nation, myself included.
I have already mentioned that we're scaling back this Christmas with the gift giving. I'm resisting the temptation to spend more on decorations. (Damn you, Starbucks, with their new Red Cup Ornament!) Doing our garage clean-up over the Summer, I saw that I had so many Christmas decorations already. I truly did not need to buy more. But making more...well that's another thing.
Shimmering Stacked Trees via Martha Stewart. They're made of newspaper! Ingenious!
As for gift giving, one "green" gift is the gift of experiences, rather than "stuff". Gift cards for restaurants and movie tickets are a great gift and doesn't add to the clutter. One year, I got Hubby a gift certificate for a Paraglide jump, which we finally cashed in over the Summer. Other experience gifts: Tickets to a sporting event, gift certificate for the spa, Lottery Tickets. Also included in this category are the "coupons" for your services, like babysitting or get-out-of-making-dinner.
Or if you're going to give a gift card for a retail store, choose one that is for necessities, like gas or groceries. In these tough times, a little help with the basics of life is very much appreciated. Everyone needs to buy groceries. Granted, some people don't drive and wouldn't need a gas card, but you'll know your gift recipient. Where's the fun in that? Well, you could certainly give a gift card that you know will come in handy by the gift recipient.
Food gifts. I'm a big fan of food gifts, on both ends, giving and receiving. When someone cooks for you, it means something. There's love in it, and that's an ingredient that is both priceless and self-renewing. Also, giving gifts that are consumable is a good thing. Better yet, buy local honey or locally made food items.
Help someone live green by giving them a "Green Life Kit". This involves spending a little bit and actually buying stuff, but the benefits are great. Possible things to go in the kit - Reusable grocery tote, Reusable water bottle (I heart Sigg bottles), Travel Mug (We love Oxo's LiquiSeal mug, and we put it in the dishwasher anyway), "Green" cleaning products (like from Method, Dr. Bronner, or Mrs. Meyers), "Green" Beauty products, Soy Candles.
If you're wrapping gifts, put them in a season-neutral gift bag (which can then be re-used) or wrap with newspaper, old posters, maps, etc. Avoid the disposable bows and ribbon which will most likely be thrown away. If you adore ribbon, use the real fabric ribbons. I've even heard of wrapping gifts in beautiful scarves, so the present is not just on the inside. If you've received gifts with bows, save them and re-use them.
When it comes to the tree, a lot of it is about personal preference. Growing up we absolutely had to have a real tree. But as I grew up and had a house of my own, the novelty of the real tree was outweighed by the annoyance of falling needles and the need for watering. If you get a real tree, be sure to compost it properly. If you're lucky enough to live by an IKEA, you can "Rent a Tree" - You rent a real Christmas tree and when you return it, you get a gift card for the amount of the deposit. IKEA will then recycle the tree for you. In our house, however, we have an artificial tree that we use every year (which, incidentally, we got used). They have LED lights these days, but I still think they have a ways to go. They have an eerie glow that I just don't care for. However, if it doesn't bother you, LED is the way to go. They are highly energy efficient and they don't run as hot as conventional lights.
The whole tree issue is still up for debate. Artificial trees do last forever, but are not used forever. And when they eventually get thrown away, they stay in the landfill forever, since they are commonly made of plastic. But, I don't think that tree-farmed trees are that great either because of all the energy and resources consumed in growing the trees. Debate rages on...
But this is just me talking. More ideas can be found at Eartheasy.
Here's to making this year's holiday season on the green side.
6 hours ago