Christmas is wonderful time of year, a time when we all feel the need to be good and do good deeds. With that in mind, we shouldn’t forget the planet. While we want to enjoy the holiday, that doesn’t mean we have to do it at the environment’s expense. After all, green is one of the colors of Christmas!
The good news is that making your Christmas eco-friendlier isn’t all that difficult. In fact, it’s likely to be more economically friendly as well. Christmas dinner might be healthier to boot. Decorating, shopping and gift-giving could be little simpler. And, with some forethought, the Christmas clean up can potentially produce useful stuff for the future.
The most important thing is to head into the holiday with the right mindset: Green is good.
Christmas dinner, not to mention the snacks and treats before and after, are a huge part of how we celebrate. That shouldn’t change, but we could look at some ways of making our meal plan more environmentally conscious.
- Plant-based: Vegetables, grains, and nuts aren’t nearly as demanding and destructive to the environment. And, veggies are good for us.
- Organic: Strive to get organic ingredients when possible. This may cost a bit more, but not doing it costs the environment a lot more. Plus, it’s healthier.
Much of the Christmas spirit is tied up in how we decorate. It’s something we often do together as a family, and it fills the house with life. We can still get all of that, and we can do it ecologically.
- Natural: Lots of natural Christmas decorations—wreaths, trees, holly, pinecones, yule logs, etc.—have been replaced with plastic versions. If that’s what’s already there, then we should use it, but for those getting decorations anew, go the natural route. A lot of it can be found in the yard, and it can be returned after the holiday celebration.
- Upcycled/Reused: There are tons of upcycling crafts, using common household items and waste, to make festive décor. This is just one more aspect of decorating the family can do together. And, of course, use the decorations that are already around instead of buying new stuff, and look for secondhand decorations at thrift shops.
If there is a decorative centerpiece during the holidays, the Christmas tree is it. It usually gets the best billing in the living room. It becomes the focal point of photos. Unfortunately, environmentally friendly Christmas trees are a sticky topic.
- Alternatives: Consider the alternatives to traditional “real” and “fake” trees. Trees can also be potted. They can be pieced together with pruned branches. They can be made of recycled cardboard.
- Disposal: For those with fake trees already, it’s important to use them as long as possible. For those with real, cut trees, it’s important to dispose of them responsibly. Wherever you are, a tree recycling option is available.
No one can really deny that the beautiful twinkling we see during the holidays makes the season bright. So, while the most energy-efficient lighting would be none at all, suffice it to say we can still have our lights and save electricity, too.
- Reduce Size: Rather than getting rid of lights altogether, a realistic compromise is to reduce the amount we use. Maybe every inch of the roof doesn’t need to be covered. Maybe every tree in the yard doesn’t need 500 bulbs. Moderation is classy.
- Turn Them Off: Whether it’s via a timer or simply flipping the switch before bed, the Christmas lights do not need to be on at 1:00 AM for no one to enjoy. They should be treated like a room: If no one’s there, turn off the lights.
Gifts, like it or not, are a part of what makes Christmas exciting, particularly for children. We don’t want to forget the gifts, but there’s no need to go crazy and produce a bunch garbage in the process.
- Make Stuff: Rather than buying everything, try making stuff. Cards and gifts can be homemade from upcycled materials. A box of candies or treats can be homemade. IF Christmas, as Charlie Brown claims, is being ruined by commercialism, then it’s time we take it back. We can make our own Christmas gifts.
- Wrapping: Wrapping paper is rough on the planet. It uses up a lot of trees and creates a lot of garbage. And, there are a lot of alternatives, many of which are just, if not more, festive. Try to wrap with something that can be reused or composted.
For some, seasonal shopping is a dream. For others, nothing could be worse. Wherever we may fall, the fact is that Christmas shopping is very much a real thing. What’s more, is that we can approach it with an eye on the environment.
- Family and Friends: It’s time we get out of the habit of giving meaningless gifts. They are a drain on our finances, and no one really wants them. It’s probably time to make an agreement with family and friends, particularly adults, to skip this tradition. Let the kids benefit from this part of the holiday.
- Choose Responsibly: When we buy plastic trinkets and throw away laughs, it hurts the environment. While this version of stocking stuffers used to be a thing, we know better by now. Go for less and buy quality gifts sourced responsibly and that people want. Quality not quantity is a worthy policy.
Finally, it’s important to plan for the end of the celebration as well. And, that means minimizing the trash we produce. We can think ahead and buy things that can be composted, reused and/or recycled so that the planet doesn’t have to process our throwaways. It’s but a minute of our time to be considerate, and it may save the planet years of dealing with waste. That’s a gift that keeps on giving.
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