Tuesday, November 18, 2008

10 Green Tips for a Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

by Lia Mack

We are all doing our part to be green: installing programmable thermostats, buying organic, recycling and composting rather than trashing and wasting...however, when it comes to a holiday as hair-raisingly disastrous as those spanning the late November to early January time frame, even the most dedicated greenies out there can go bankrupt with recalling what best to do in terms of staying green AND having a wonderful holiday.

So, what's a greenie to do in the face of the conceivable mess to come? Hide away our wallets? Stay indoors with the lights out? Un-enjoy the season? Although that's one way to spend the holidays, why not do it up green style...

"Keep in mind the seven generations to come..." says the
Iroquois Nation.

"Be the change you wish to see..." says the Dalai Lama.

Of course, I'm paraphrasing here...but you get the point.

These are the things that we keep in mind year round so that when we do consume, we do so consciously
. Now, in the face of temptation and commercialism at it's very best, we need to stay focused and remember to use our dollar power in support of the greener good. And yes! We can do it green and still get that perfect gift, twinkle our holiday lights, and so on...

So, here's to walking the walk this holiday season with my:

Top 10 Tips for a Greener Holiday Season :)
  1. Say it Green!
    Holiday cards filled with cute family pictures and page long year-in-review stories are one of my personal favorites of the season. However, when using bleached paper made from old growth forests, and it soon tarnishes even the most beautiful well wishes.

    • Buy holiday cards or use blank card stock made from recycled paper, sustainable hemp, or make your own paper from recycled materials around the house.
    • Kept some cute cards from last year? Cut out details and use them as embellishments for this year's cards or, for you frugal greenies out there, send out the unused portion as your new cards this year.
    • If you want to alleviate some of the guilt, plant a tree or two to off-set your paper consumption this holiday season.
    • Print eco-friendly holiday photos, using photo paper made from recycled paper.
    • As for the holiday photos, print your own using vegetable dye printer cartrages rather than polluting chemical colors.

  2. Be Evergreen with Your Decorations

    • When decorating this holiday season, don't forget your winged and four legged friends outdoors! If you are blessed with trees in your yard, make cranberry and popcorn garland to wrap around them, complete with birdseed covered pine cones. The animals will love them and they will contribute to your beautiful daylight decorations, naturally.

    • One could definitely argue that chopping down trees for any occasion is not exactly eco-friendly. However, when purchasing your holiday tree from a locally owned organic tree farm, you're not only helping out the local economy. You're also keeping artificial trees out of the landfill, supporting organic farming practices (some tree growers use over 40 harmful pesticides, which you then bring into your home!), and, for every tree cut down this year, that's at least one more tree planted for next season, if not more.

    • Go for all the sparkle you want this season, using LED holiday lights. Decorating your tree and home with energy-efficient LED lights will help reduce your energy bills and, since they burn cooler, they are also safer to use indoors. For outdoor lights, there are some awesome solar powered lights that you can decorate the outdoors without all the wires tracking back to the house, draining your pocket book! Plus they can go anywhere, allowing you to light up even hard to reach areas of your yard.

    • When it comes time to take the tree down, before you toss it out with the trash, visit eco911.org for local recycling services and pick up dates. Most cities have recycling programs that turn used trees into mulch and other materials. Or, if you are an avid gardener, you can put your tree out back to be self mulched for garden paths. Doing this not only keeps the tree in the cycle of life, birds and other wildlife will enjoy the additional spot to hide and rest in your backyard during the upcoming winter.

  3. Wrap it up eco-style!
    Shinny metal details on even the cutest wrapping paper is toxic. From of the runoff at production to time to Grandpa tossing it into the fire emitting toxic gasses into the air or it decomposing over the next millennium, holiday wrapping can be quite ecologically expensive. There are endless eco-friendly ways to wrap your gifts this holiday season. All it ever takes is a little ingenuity and creativity. Consider these eco savvy alternatives:

    • Reuse gift bags, boxes, tissue paper, and ribbons from presents past (and save all that you can this year too!)
    • Once a friend gave me a gift inside of a old wine box that she got from a local wine store for free. Often tossed out, the wooden boxes are great for decorating gifts and reusable.
    • Using a yard of fabric, wrapped with a satin bow is not only special, it's also reusable!
    • Wrap it in a T-shirt, scarf, basket, quilt, duffel bag, reusable shopping tote (I love these bags!).
    • Find festive wrapping paper made from recycled paper, hemp, bamboo, and other sustainable resources.
    • Have the kids add their artistic flair to some plain unbleached recycled white paper and use the beautiful artwork as wrapping paper.
    • Old maps! I saw this idea at a party recently and I fell in love with it! Maps get outdated so quickly, why not use them as wrapping? Brilliant!

    Obviously, folks, the possibilities are endless. Just think, is it reusable? Can it be recycled? Is it made from a sustainable eco-friendly resource, reuses post-consumer waste?

  4. Feast Green!
    Dine 'till your heart is content by supporting local farm families who practice organic and sustainable farming practices. "The best organic food is what's grown closest to you." Search at Local Harvest for local farmer's markets, CSA's, Natural Food Markets, and other locations where you can find great tasting foods to add to your localvore. And, instead of throwing away leftovers after your big party, compost all non-meat food and kitchen scraps into your backyard compost bin.

  5. Give Freely...so long as it's People & Planet Friendly.
    Honestly, if you have the money to spend and want to spend it, go for it! There are plenty of green choices out there.. By shopping online, not only can you find what you are looking for faster (saving you stress), you'll cut on your own fuel consumption. Online stores usually ship straight from the factory to you (even more fuel savings), and most online stores sell the same item for less via their virtual stores than at their brick-n-mortar locations. Or, if you can't find that perfect gift, there are always gift cards, and many businesses are offering bioplastic gift cards - an earth friendly alternative for those 'hard to shop for' loved ones. Above all, when purchasing a gift this season, remember to be conscious of it's effects on people and planet, from production to packaging to enjoying...or, in the worst case scenario and they don't like it, to purging. You don't want to spend all of your precious resources getting that perfect gift, only to find that you later contributed to a landfill or miles driven around town returning. Talk about holiday nightmare!

  6. Ge Green...and Guilt Free!
    What's a better green gift than giving something that doesn't come in a box, bag, or wrapping! No waste = no guilt, right?! Get creative, think of places that your loved ones would enjoy going to like a concert, theater production, a movie. You could also help out the local economy by getting them a family pass to a local museum, aquarium, or science center. Think, "No wrapping".

  7. Buying Local doesn't mean the local mall
    Shop local for real! Look online, ask around. Chances are there is a nice handful of locally owned business run by families trying to help make ends meet. You can do a huge chunk, if not all, of your holiday shopping around your hometown. Instead of helping the big box stores stay in business, help local families out by frequenting their stores, using their services, purchasing their products. Some may be online like LiveGreen, where you can do all of your holiday shopping by putting together some 'go green' packages for all your friends and family to help them get into gear: green reusable shopping bags, reusable produce bags, organic clothing, locally made organic candles, etc. What better thing to walk in with at your next dinner party than a reusable green wine tote filled by a bottle from a local organic winery. Other local businesses might sell books, make handpainted holiday cards, or can sew up a storm if you want to hand out some unique items this year.

  8. Remember the 4 R's:
    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Regift
    We are all well acquainted with the first three. However, as with any gift giving season, whether it be of the Birthday or Holiday variety, there comes the question of, if I end up with something that I don't need or want, what am I going to do with it? Instead of adding to all the post-holiday pollution by driving from mall to mall returning unwanted items, why not save them for regifting purposes? Of course, you're not going to regift it back to the same person, however I'm sure there will be some occasion in the not so distant future where you could give it to someone who will apprcieate it.

    A way to keep from ending up with piles of odd ball gifts, why not have all family members submit two to three items to a master wish list. Especially with children, there are so many things that they could actually use or need that would be great to purchase for them rather than the newest piece of plastic that'll fall apart in a matter of minutes.

  9. Help Others...Go Green!
    If you know someone who has been thinking about going green however hasn't quite made it, why not help them out this holiday gift giving season. There are endless possibilities of gift ideas. How about:

    Or, rather than adding to the mountain of stuff that everyone already has, how about helping others less fortunate by purchasing a necessity item in the name of a family member or friend. How about donating a:

    THOSE, in my opinion, are the best giving gifts. And, isn't giving the reason for the season? Or is it the tilt of the Earth?

  10. Watch Your Language!
    Instead of waiting for Aunt May to say, "Hey, someone grab a bag for all the trash," when your crew is about to dive into the presents, pipe in with a cheerful, "Hey! Let me go grab a bag for all the recyclables," and then dart off with a gleeful skip in your step. Remember, we're more worried about educating and impressing upon the next generation than changing the minds of the old farts.

    What we say over and over again ingrains into our memory. If we change the way we talk about even the most mundane, we will be just like those evil commercials that we are obsessively avoiding, secretly carving our way into the minds of the unwilling, subconsciously changing their thought patterns. Who knows? Keep it up and you'll find yourself surprised next year when someone recites your very exact words at the next cleaning up venue or asks, "Hey, where do you want us to put this recycle stuff?"

This is by no means an exhaustive list of tips and ideas. If you have any great green ideas, please, feel free to comment below!

As always, with a little creativity, ingenuity, and forethought, we can enjoy our holiday traditions without trashing the planet. Always keep in mind that we are all related, connected. We all breath the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food. Keep it clean, safe, and enjoy!

Good luck! And happy holidays :)

PS...if you wish to reprint any or all of this blog,
PLEASE let me know so I can give reprint permission ;)
liamack {at} yahoo (dot) com