Before I offer a few, brief specific environmentally friendly tips for holiday shopping, gift-giving and celebrating, let me just begin with this little carol:
- I'm dreaming of a green Christmas ...Not like the ones I used to know. With presents handmade or re-gifted. To prevent the climate being shifted. And leaving Christmas trees to grow.
- I'm dreaming of a green Christmas...With every recycled Christmas card I mail. May your roofs be solar and St. Nick use all the coal up. And may we all help the planet to prevail.
- I'm dreaming of a green Christmas... Choosing fair trade, chemical and pesticide free. May your lives be down-scaled, with clean air to inhale. And may all your Christmases be eco-friendly.
Okay, so now that that's out of my system, consider these tips for a "green" Christmas:
There is an art to re-gifting, one that I have not mastered because I can never remember who gave me things in the first place. Also, the problem is, if you can call this a problem, I have a large family, and everyone gets along great and they all converge at my house for Christmas and see all the presents that everyone gives everyone else, so re-gifting is impossible. If you can avoid those issues, re-gift, purchasing items at holiday fairs or at the local Goodwill store, particularly when it comes to barely used household items and toys, sometimes in mint condition.
Other planet-preserving gifts include handcrafts from recycled cloth or other materials (purchase from crafters if you have no time or talent) and homemade food items from cookies to soups, replete with the recipes.
The gift of time is another goodie, especially for those suffering in this downturn or for strapped college kids or younger children. One idea is to create vouchers for that time -- perhaps hand-drawn on recycled paper -- to be "cashed in" for a day at the park or lunch together, or even for a car wash, snow shoveling, cleaning or housework, lawn mowing or yard work, perhaps.
Another eco-friendly gift is a charitable donation. This brings to mind an episode of Seinfeld in which George avoids gift-giving entirely by giving out phony cards listing donations to a nonexistent "The Human Fund,” mocking the value of donations. To be honest, making a donation in someone’s name may not be the most personal or appreciated gift for some recipients, but for others it may be ideal. For example, it might be perfect for the person who has everything, particularly if it supports a local community crusade, such as Bellmore-based Katrina Kids or the Long Island Crisis Center, or a favored cause, such as a “green” one like the World Wildlife Fund.
Green Sided Gifts?
Traditional gifts often have their “green” side as well. Read labels for less toxic ingredients and better corporate practices, such as fair trade and chemical and pesticide free. Choose minimal packaging, reuse last year’s saved gift boxes, wrap presents in colorful newspaper or magazine pages, and avoid plastic and Styrofoam whenever possible. Finally, what about those big-ticket items? For appliances, look for Energy Star labeling. For jewelry, consider heirloom stones in new settings handed down, or antique or nature's offerings, perhaps at Austern Antiques or Nature's Museum Store. If a new auto is on your list, think about the new electric cars, hybrids, or mileage-efficient choices.
Finally, the Grinch is not the only “green-themed” movie. Why not treat your family to the holiday classics “Who Killed the Electric Car?” or “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Replacing tree-wasting greeting cards with ones on recycled paper or with e-mails is just the beginning of eco-friendly celebrating. Also be sure to use cloth tablecloths, metal utensils and china instead the paper napkins and plastic flatware and remember to recycle bottles, aluminum cans, and corrugated cardboard and other containers.
One last thought in this season of get-togethers: Even if you shudder at the thought of being around some of your friends, coworkers or relatives in close quarters, think again and make the sacrifice for the planet by carpooling during shopping trips and to holiday parties!