by Rachel Dunstan Muller
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Original Article: Click Here
Originally Published: December 2011
Not a fan of the over-consumption and waste that typically characterizes this time of year? Me neither! Fortunately it’s perfectly possible to have a joyful holiday that treads lightly on the planet. Here are a few ideas to help your family go greener this season.
• Gather natural decorations from your backyard. Make wreaths and swags from cedar, fir and holly branches. Collect pinecones to make tree ornaments or to use as a centerpiece.
• Paint simple houses on small pieces of driftwood, and arrange them to form a West Coast-style Christmas village.
• Get your kids to help you string popcorn and cranberries on thread for a natural tree garland.
• LED strings are now competitively priced with conventional holiday lights, but use only a fraction of the energy and last significantly longer. When putting lighting up outside, make sure you use lights rated for outdoor use.
• Consider the demands being placed on our electrical grid at this time of year, and opt for a less-is-more approach.
• Turn off seasonal lights at bedtime, or get a timer to do it for you.
• A locally-grown tree is a solid environmental choice. As a bonus, an acre of trees on a Christmas tree farm remove up to 13 tons of airborne pollutants per year. A potted tree that can be replanted outside after the holidays is even better. Norfolk Pines are another option—they can live indoors year-round, and be reused for many Christmases to come.
• If you live in an apartment or condominium that doesn’t allow cut trees, consider a “vintage” artificial tree from a thrift store or a grandparents’ attic. You’ll be helping to keep a pre-loved tree out of the landfill, and sidestepping the environmental costs of manufacturing a new one.
• Enlist your kids to make greeting cards using recycled or salvaged paper and cardstock. Use the art saved from last year’s cards, or your children’s own artwork.
• Consider giving a few special gifts rather than many, less meaningful ones.
• Fill practical needs—pyjamas and slippers make great gifts at this time of year. Socks and underwear can be good stocking stuffers along with more “fun” items. Sports equipment is another child-pleasing but practical idea.
• You don’t have to shop at a mall to support the local economy. Consider giving gift certificates or passes for local services, attractions, recreational facilities, restaurants or entertainment venues.
• To minimize the transportation-footprint of your gifts, visit Christmas craft fairs for locally-made items. Take it one step further and look for artisans who use recycled materials in their crafts.
• Make your own gifts with repurposed materials. If you’re stuck for inspiration, just google “recycled gift ideas” for thousands of possibilities.
• “Used” doesn’t have to be a dirty word at Christmas. Consignment stores are a great source for quality toys and clothing (believe me, your three-year-old won’t care where you shopped). Antiques and collectibles make special gifts for the people who appreciate them. If a computer or other electronic device is on someone’s wish list, a refurbished model purchased through a reputable business is by far the most environmentally-friendly way to go.
• Reduce the number of gifts on your list by organizing a gift exchange for adult family members. Each person is assigned one other person, either by a draw or some other system. Set a mutually agreeable spending limit that respects everyone’s budget.
• For the person who has everything, a donation to a charitable organization might be perfect. Give a Kiva Card (www.kiva.org), and your recipient will get to personally choose an individual from one of 60 countries to support with a micro-loan. When the loan is repaid, the funds can be re-loaned or withdrawn. It’s a gift that truly keeps giving!
• If greed gets its hooks into your kids, inoculate them with a healthy dose of generosity. There are many opportunities to share at this time of year: contributing to a Christmas shoebox or stocking campaign, choosing a gift for someone from an angel tree, helping to cook or serve at a community dinner, supplying gifts to a homeless or women’s shelter, and the list goes on. Choose something appropriate for your family, and get your kids involved. Make it as hands-on as possible, and they won’t forget it.
• Canadians generate a whopping 545,000 tons of waste annually just in discarded wrapping paper and shopping bags. Opt out of the waste by reusing wrapping paper and gift bags when possible, and saving ribbons and bows for future use.
• Use the comic section, old maps or posters to wrap presents.
• Make reusable gift bags from fabric scraps or reclaimed fabrics.
• Reuse vintage cookie tins to package gifts.
• You might be surprised by how much of your holiday dinner you can source locally if you make the effort. Vancouver Island farmers produce turkeys, cranberries, potatoes, brussel sprouts, dairy products, apples for pies, and a wealth of other delicious things. Your family can eat well, and support a local, sustainable food system.
Gifts for the Earth
• Plant a tree to help offset the carbon footprint of your celebration.
• Work off your turkey dinner by strolling around the block with gloves and a garbage bag to pick up trash.
• Make edible ornaments for the birds and other wild creatures in your backyard. The Internet has lots of wildlife-appropriate recipes.
• If you’ve planned in advance, you’ll have less holiday waste than your neighbours, and most of it will be recyclable.
• Most communities on the Island have free or by-donation chipping services to keep Christmas trees out of landfills. The chips make great mulch for shrub beds.
• Need to clear out space for this year’s gifts? Still-usable items can be donated for resale.
• Return-it Centres will take unwanted computers, televisions and stereos for recycling.
• Small appliances are now accepted at many recycling depots.
Rachel Dunstan Muller is the mother of five, and a children’s author. Her previous articles can be found at web link.
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Island Parent Magazine
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