Going Green For The Holidays
Going "green" for Christmas
Many families face a dilemma during the holiday season. Wanting to celebrate with a Christmas tree, decorating the house, and beautifully wrapped gifts adorning the tree, while at the same time wanting to reduce, reuse and recycle. How does the holiday season fit with ecological responsibility? Is it even possible to celebrate a “green” Christmas?
There are many different ways to be ecologically aware, while still celebrating the Christmas your family desires. Before the holiday season kicks into high gear, sit down with your family and talk about expectations, desires and reality. Talk about responsible consumption of natural and man-made resources and products. Brainstorm with your partner and children about things you can do to have a holiday that is not only responsible, but also fun.
While not everyone will have all of their expectation satisfied, it is possible to celebrate responsibly for the environment and for your family.
The green tree
Information abounds on the Internet regarding the benefits of real trees versus fake trees. In reality, there is no right answer. Decide what works for your family, and decide what kind of holiday you'd like to have. From there, make an informed decision about your tree.
There are myriad opinions both pro’s and con’s for real and artificial trees. On the one hand, tree farms develop evergreen forests, many of them in areas that were formerly used for such crops as wheat, corn and alfalfa. They benefit the environment by reducing soil erosion, producing habitat for wildlife and reducing carbon, These all seem like good reasons to support tree farms and purchase a real tree for the holidays. The biggest argument against tree farms seems to be the use of pesticides to control insects. The overuse of some pesticides can lead to serious environmental damage.
And while purchasing a real tree directly from a tree farm will yield a fresh and lively tree, raised in nearly ideal conditions, you might shy away from those trees delivered to grocery and chain stores in November. Chances are, those trees were cut down some time in October, then wrapped and loaded onto trucks. The trees you purchase from mega-stores are likely to arrive dried out and tired, long before you ever get it home. Try to purchase your tree as close to the source as possible.
You could even purchase a permit from the local forest service office and head into the woods to cut down your own tree. This is a fun family outing, that really doesn't harm the environment as much as you might imagine.
According to the US Forest Service website, Christmas tree harvesting helps each of us take an active part in managing our national forests. Permits are available for sale throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, including Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. The permits allow one to harvest one tree from a specified area of the national forest. This allows the US Forest Service to control how many trees are taken, and from which forests. The permits are inexpensive, and the adventure is well worth your time.
You could also use a small, potted live tree. Once the holiday's are over, and the ground thaws, you can plant it outside.
While artificial trees can be used year after year, according to the National Christmas Tree association, most artificial trees are thrown away after only six years. And they aren’t biodegradable. Once an artificial tree is delivered to the landfill, it remains there indefinitely.
In addition, most artificial trees are manufactured in China. Not only are they produced using petroleum based products, they must be shipped half-way around the world to reach the market. In addition to being harmful in these ways, artificial trees lack the fragrance and aura of a fresh tree. They can also be an expensive investment, and are sometimes are difficult to assemble.
What kind of Christmas tree do you prefer?
Besides the Christmas tree, another point of contention for those concerned with environmental impact is the wrapping paper. Each year in the United States alone, 4 million tons of logs make the trip from forest to landfill, in the form of wrapping paper and gift bags. And according to the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia based non-profit organization, burning wrapping paper releases toxic and carcinogenic compounds into the air, which can endanger those with aggravated respiratory symptoms.
So what are some simple alternatives that look festive and protect the environment? One solution is to save and reuse wrapping paper. Carefully unwrapping gifts, and saving gift bags not only helps the earth, but it helps your wallet too.
Using the comic pages from a newspaper, artwork made by your children, and pages from an old calendar are also good alternatives. Try using non-conventional wrapping. Wrap a gift in a scarf. Use a lunch box. Make the wrap itself a creative gift, such as a tee shirt tied with a pretty ribbon.
It is possible to celebrate a “green” Christmas. From the beautiful tree, to the gifts surrounding it, there are many ways to create a positive impact on the world around us.
The gifts, arguably the most important part of the holiday season, can also be green. Start looking around your house for unused or rarely used items that might be appreciated by someone else. If you have it and don't use it, then it is a waste.
Instead of purchasing toys made of plastic, in faraway lands, think about what kids actually use. Fill their stockings with bubble bath, shampoo, soap, and other consumable items. These items seem boring, but they will be greatly appreciated by teens and college students.
For older children, consider buying gift cards, so they can purchase exactly what they want. Another idea is to give a family gift that everyone can use, such as a game or a movie that the family can watch together.
Finally, the best gifts are the gifts of your time. Endeavor to spend more time with the people you love. In this way, you not only save money and the environment, but you create irreplaceable memories, and those are priceless.