Dreaming of a greener Christmas

2010-12-03 14:24

Christmas does not have to be a burden on the environment. With a little imagination and some simple adjustments, you can green up your holiday celebrations while still enjoying the festivities and saving yourself a bit of money.

Here are the top 10 green tips to help celebrate the season of giving, not only to each other, but also to the earth.

Christmas Trees
There is a bit of a debate about which Christmas tree option is greener – fake or real. Fake fir trees are reusable but are made from petroleum-based plastics, are often shipped from abroad and can’t be recycled. If you already have a fake tree, reuse it.

Real trees are usually locally grown on tree farms and replanted regularly but can involve pesticides and other unsustainable agricultural practices. Pine trees are not indigenous and consume huge amounts of water. A better choice would be to purchase an indigenous potted tree that can be left in a big pot outside and reused or planted after the holidays.

A good pick would be a Yellowwood tree. If you do not want to go with a living tree, there are friendly alternatives to fake trees as well.
Some ideas include reusable wire or wooden trees or decking your halls with boughs pruned or fallen from a live tree which can be composted afterwards.

Christmas Lights
Decorating your tree with LED Christmas lights is the greenest choice as they use 90% less energy than their incandescent glass equivalents, last longer, don’t get as hot and if one bulb goes out, the rest of the string still works.

Although LED lights are not recyclable, they last a very long time and do not require safe disposal. Remember to turn Christmas lights off overnight or when you are not at home. If you want to light up your veranda or an outdoor tree, solar lights are your best option.

Ornaments & decorations
Keep the green theme alive by purchasing local handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations or buying them second hand from charity shops.

Making your own decorations is even better and will not only save you money, but it’s a great way to get the whole family involved. Home-made ornaments can be made from recycled or scrap materials such as bottle tops, used ribbons, cardboard, felt and more. Paper chains or popcorn garlands make a great alternative to tinsel.

Reuse what you can next year. Natural decorations such as wreaths and arrangements can be made from pine cones, cinnamon sticks, ivy, berries and branches and can be composted later.

Gifts
Get imaginative and have some fun with your gift ideas. Gifts that are thoughtful and unique often mean far more than expensive store-bought items.

Try to buy local, fair trade, upcycled, handmade or vintage goods. Giving experiences, for example, concert tickets, cooking lessons, magazine subscriptions, or vouchers for a dinner or massage are excellent alternatives to material gifts. Home-made gifts such as a poetry collection, crocheted item, home-baked treats, a recipe book, a framed photo, a compilation CD or potted herbs are all priceless options.
 
Remember to take reusable bags when out shopping and if you need to buy batteries, opt for rechargeables.

Gift Wrap
Instead of buying expensive gift paper that will often just be thrown away, be innovative with your gift wrapping.
 
Wrap gifts in old maps, comics, magazines, crossword puzzles, brown paper bags, reused boxes or sheet music. Or make the wrapping part of the gift by using a scarf or reusable bag. Reuse ribbon or string and natural objects to adorn your parcels.

Gift Tags
Dress up your presents with creative gift-tags, made out of scrap paper or cardboard from a food box, last year’s cards, pictures, pieces of fabric or other recycled items. If you do buy, look for cards that are made from recycled paper, use soy-based inks and are recyclable.

Christmas Fare
When planning your Christmas meal, where possible buy organic, free range, hormone-free, seasonal and locally grown foods including turkeys, chickens, hams, cheeses, fruits and wines.

Use fresh herbs from your garden. And instead of having more food than you can eat, reduce by making more realistic amounts and store leftovers in reusable containers.

Christmas Parties
From fabric or kid’s picture placemats to home-made napkin rings and crackers, make a commitment to go green by decorating your Christmas table with an eco-friendly touch.

For centrepieces try sprigs of greenery, dried flowers or fruit arrangements. Use real dishes, glasses and silverware instead of plastic or polystyrene. Go for old-fashioned cloth napkins and a cloth tablecloth instead of throwaways. Candles give a warm look to a Christmas table. Using soy, beeswax or vegetable wax candles instead of the conventional petroleum-based counterparts is another green way to light up your Christmas festivities. And if you need a new party outfit, why not grab an original vintage costume from your local charity store. Then kick back and toast the holidays with a glass of organic champagne.

Give Back
Make this Christmas count by supporting a local cause. Teach children the true spirit of giving during the holidays by asking them to pick some toys that they no longer play with and donate them to a local orphanage or get a group of friends together and organise a charity project.

Reuse and Recycle
And when Christmas is over, the proper green thing to do is to carefully sort the waste for recycling.

Wrapping and packaging materials can be kept for reuse or be recycled. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse. Recycle all your paper, cardboard, plastic, tins, cans and glass from your Christmas parties. Don’t throw out old things to be replaced with new gifts, give them away to charity, or to someone who can fix and use them, or recycle.

Always remember the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Have yourself a Merry Green Christmas!
 

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