A green Christmas

2012-12-16 10:00

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It’s time for power-consuming shiny lights and reams of gift wrapping. Christmas may be fun but it’s certainly not green. Here’s how to make it just a little more environmentally friendly.

Christmas trees

In the northern hemisphere, buying from a special Christmas tree farm is de rigeur and very sustainable.

But most South Africans opt for plastic models, made from non-recyclable PVC plastic, which is not the greenest option.

Environmental groups say real trees are the way.

If thrown in a landfill, fake trees never break down.

If they are burned, they emit dioxins and other carcinogens into the atmosphere.

Even scarier, some of the older models may contain dangerous levels of lead.

The best option is to buy an indigenous tree which can be potted and later planted out in the garden.

Potted yellowwoods are the flavour of the month at Christmas markets.

Wrapping paper

In the US, more than 4?million tons of gift wrap and shopping bags are thrown away each year.

Britain, reports The Guardian newspaper, uses 8?000 tons of wrapping paper per annum.

That’s 50?000 trees.

Green lifestyle site Greenblizzard recommends alternative wrapping options such as newspaper comics, funky ad inserts, mail-order catalogues, colourful ads or magazine pictures.

Also use gift boxes and bags you’ve received in the past.

According to the Stanford recycling programme, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45?000 football fields.

Shiny lights

More South African households are going for the big Christmas look, with sparkly lights and illuminated garden Santas.

But lights use electricity.

Solar-powered garden lights are all the rage, and LED lights are also available, using up to 95% less power than traditional lights, with a lifespan of up to 100?000 hours indoors.

Switch them off before you go to bed.


Last month, renowned blogger Greg Hanscom pleaded with family and friends: “Please get my kids nothing for Christmas”.

Parents the world over cried Hallelujah.

His blog went viral because of the sheer number of toys parents have to accommodate.

“Are they breeding?” he asked of the loads of soft toys he unearths daily.

Eartheasy.com recommends sourcing locally made gifts.

“Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transport,” it said.

“And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.”

Gifts made from recycled sources are good, as are home-made jams, body scrubs or relishes. It’s very fashionable to make something yourself.

But if you have to buy that big shiny toy, watch out for the batteries. Eartheasy says they are an environmental hazard when discarded.

About 40% of all battery sales take place over the holidays.

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