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December 9, 2007

I'm dreaming of a... GREEN Christmas

Even though the holidays are tons of fun, the way we celebrate can wreck havoc on the environment. Think of the trees cut down, the electricity burned away in tiny blinking bulbs, the paper wasted (greeting cards and gift wrap), etc.

We decided it'd be nice to offer a few suggestions for having an eco-friendly holiday this year.


There are two sides to the Real vs. Fake issue: On the one hand, cutting down a live tree to sit in your living room for a few weeks is obviously wasteful. On the other hand, fake trees are often made from non-biodegradable materials that will end up sitting in a landfills until the end of time (however they don't need to be replaced yearly - my family's artificial tree has been around longer than I have and it still looks pretty good).

If you do go for an artificial tree, avoid those made from plastic, PVC, petroleum or other contaminant substances. If you opt for a cut tree, you should take it to your local recycling facility after Christmas so it can be turned into mulch.

You might want to buy a live (potted) tree that can be planted in the Spring or rent one from The Original Living Christmas Tree Company or buy one to use the following year (or plant in the Spring). You can also forgo the typical evergreen trees altogether and decorate your already existing household plants. Or if you really want to be green this year, plant a tree in honor of the holiday or dedicate a tree as a gift for a loved one through The CarbonNeutral Company.


We all know that wrapping your presents makes them look pretty (and hides what's inside!) but it is so wasteful. There are a lot of other alternatives to traditional gift wrap: consider using "recycled gift wrap" from around the house such as grocery bags, newspaper (especially the Sunday funnies), magazine pages, old drawings from your kids that you no longer have room for on the refrigerator door, etc. In our home, we reuse the same gift bags for years and years and it's much less wasteful than wrapping paper. You can also wrap presents in a colorful handkerchief or scarf or other non-paper item.

If you do feel the need to use wrapping paper, consider some eco-friendly options: Kid Bean has recycled paper; Paper Mojo has tree-free papers; Paporganics has organic hemp paper (with vegetable-based ink) and biodegradable ribbon; Green Earth Office Supply has clear cellulose tape and recycled, gummed paper tape (both PVC-free). And don't forget -- never throw away the paper after the gifts have been unwrapped. Save and reuse whatever you can and RECYCLE whatever you can't.


Think about going paperless by sending out an email or electronic card (you can find links to many e-greetings through Grinning Planet). If you really feel the need to send cards (to those friends and family who aren't online) opt for eco-friendly cards such as recycled or hemp paper cards from Treehugger or Pristine Planet. And recycle the cards you receive (or you can reuse them by cutting them into a bookmark, postcard, or gift tag).


Opt for low-energy lights such as LED (light-emitting diode) lights instead of conventional bulbs. They last longer and are 90 percent more efficient. Try Holidays LEDS or Inirgee for a variety of styles, sizes, and colors. Set your lights to an automatic timer and limit the amount of hours they stay lit. When the bulbs finally do burn out, you can mail them in to be recycled.

Check out these awesome menorahs seen on Great Green Goods that are made from recycled items in addition to being unique and stylish. For other eco-friendly holiday decorating ideas (such as making your own candles or decorating with "edibles" you can enjoy later) visit indobase or Suite 101. You can also find cool recycled ornaments from Uncommon Goods or make your own!


If you're having a party this holiday season, try to use real glasses, dishes and flatware if you can. Also cloth napkins and tableclothes. (Of course, hopefully you have an energy-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer; use cold water whenever possible). If you must use disposables, try to use those made from recyclable paper (and NEVER Styrofoam! It isn't biodegradable). If you use plastic cutlery, wash and reuse them whenever possible.

Try serving an organic wine, which contain less sulfites than traditional wines (and no pesticides were used during the grape-growing). Pick out a wine from the Organic Wine Company (which also has Vegan options) or Bonterra who also use recycled glass, soy ink and recycled materials for its label. If vodka is your drink of choice consider McCormick's 360 Vodka. They use energy efficient methods in their facilities, as well as eco-friendly packaging.


When you hit the mall, bring your own reusable bags instead of shopping bags. Don't be opposed to buying lightly-used items (such as books or CDs) at a secondhand shop. Whenever possible, buy locally to avoid the carbon emissions and excess packaging associated with shipping.

Search the National Green Pages to find businesses that support sweatshop-free labor, organic farms, fair trade, cruelty-free products, energy efficient products, and other ecologically sound or socially just principles, policies and practices.

Consider giving handmade gifts such as knitted items or baked goods. Or give the gift of "experience" by purchasing tickets to a show or a voucher for a massage, etc. Give a donation gift from Oxfam American Unwrapped or Just Give such as having trees planted or sponsoring sheep or buy someone the "Eco Starter Kit" from Go Green Gift.

Other eco-friendly (and totally cool) gift suggestions:


About Snaptacular Photos said...

I read something recently about live Christmas trees that said it's really not so bad. Basically, the idea is that very few people are going out into the forest to cut down some poor unsuspecting tree. Rather, they're grown in lots (that wouldn't exist if the industry did not) and help the environment during the time before they're cut down. And these lots are of course going to continue to plant more.

About Snaptacular Photos said...

And also, as you mentioned, the trees can be reused: as mulch, and I think I read they're used as erosion barriers as well.