Greening the holidays

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If any of you are only beginning the annual holiday shopping rush, maybe trying to reduce the environmental footprint that the holiday season tends to create can be consideration.

In the summer we don't do the campfire thing anymore, and for the past several years, we've opted for an artificial Christmas tree. It seems to me that every live tree is precious as it can soak up carbon, and so I no longer feel comfortable wasting trees only to burn them or throw them out in a couple of weeks. I hope to use my artificial tree for the rest of my life, and then hopefully it can be donated to someone else that can use it after that.

However, live trees are biodegradable whereas artificial ones are not, and many fossil fuels were used to make the artificial tree and get it to my home. So, I'm not sure which is really the better alternative, and possibly I made a wrong decision a few years ago. If you do get a live tree, look into getting it chipped into mulch rather than having it disposed of in a landfill. The best option is probably to decorate a potted tree or plant, and then plant it in the garden afterwards.

Lighting – LED lights are the way to go, as they use far less energy and therefore last much longer than the other kind. They may cost a little more, but in the long run they will save you money.

Wrapping paper – how about using that newspaper you read? Then you can recycle it, compost it or put it into your worm bin afterwards. Or re-use a gift bag that you received from someone last year.

Or, if you have the time and the inclination, sew some gift bags that can be continually reused. Or wrap with tea-towels, handkerchiefs or something else like that. At the very least, make sure the wrapping paper you buy is made from recycled paper, and then recycle / compost it again afterwards.

Gifts – Do you feel that your home is being filled up with stuff? How much more stuff do you really want? I don’t believe I’m the only person that feels like I have enough stuff. Giving experiences can be good – theatre, concert or movie tickets, a dinner out, an afternoon of snowshoeing, swimming lessons, piano lessons, wood carving lessons, or personal training for example.

Or home-cooked food can be a wonderful gift – something to put in the freezer and use on a busy night or when your recipient does not feel like cooking.

Or a gift certificate for your time for babysitting, lawn cutting, snow shoveling, leaf raking, house cleaning, or any other helpful service that may be needed. I think that frequently spending time together is what people want the most, and if you don’t have much spare time, that gift can be very valuable indeed. Gifts like this don't have much packaging, and they are not transported half way around the world to get to a store near you.

Another form of gift that I would love to receive would be an acre of land in my name donated to the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defence, World Wildlife Fund, or some such organization that is involved in protecting habitat.

Another neat idea are carbon offset gift cards – they come in 1 to 50 metric ton denominations. Or a donation to Oxfam unwrapped or any other charity you think your recipient would appreciate. These sorts of gifts can be purchased online from the comfort of your home, and if you have a printer, you can print electronic gift certificates at home, so your gift isn’t being flown or trucked using up fossil fuels.

These are only a few ideas – do you have others? Please do tell us by commenting!

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