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Have a”Green” Christmas

Posted by kim carpenter on November 22, 2010
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Christmas tree farm

At a time when many of us are trying to reduce our impact on the environment—even the White House will recycle its Christmas decorations this year and use LEDs on the national tree—Christmas provides an excellent opportunity to start ecologically-minded traditions. Follow the steps below to green up your Christmas and grow more eco-conscious all year round! This guide tells you all you need to learn to know how to have green Christmas.

  • Holiday Cards –

The 2.6 billion holiday cards sold each year in the United States could fill a landfill the size of a football field 10 stories high. The following options could help reduce that pile.

  1. Consider switching to emailed holiday cards.
    • You can send photo and holiday e-cards using sites like Blue Mountain and
    • provides a little comic relief for the holidays, with cards like the one pictured at right. NOTE: Several of Someecards’ e-cards are not appropriate for children.
  2. Try creating a holiday album on a photo-sharing site like flickr or Shutterfly and circulating that instead of a traditional card.
  3. Buy cards printed on recycled paper, handmade papers, or paper made from materials like hemp. Three of Hallmark’s lines have recycled content: Shoebox Greetings, My Thoughts Exactly, and Comedy Club.
    • Hallmark has e-cards available, too.
  4. Buy cards that donate a portion of proceeds to a good cause.
  5. Reuse holiday cards you receive to make gift tags. Most people don’t write on the back of the front of the card.
  • Decide whether to invest in a live or artificial tree

  • A live tree certainly evokes the season with its pine-fresh smell, and families often enjoy the annual ritual of picking out the perfect tree.  Visit an Indiana Christmas Tree Farm and find the perfect tree
  1. Decide if a living tree is right for you.
  2. Consider making your own family tree from recycled materials. It won’t look like the neighbors’ blue spruce, perhaps, but it will be special to you and could be great fun to create.
  3. If a live tree is your best option, try to buy your tree as close to its source as possible.
  4. The same goes for an artificial tree. If it’s made in the United States, you’ve just reduced the costs associated with shipping overseas.
  5. Ask the grower about pesticide use.
  6. Consider chopping your tree down yourself if there is a tree farm close by.
  7. Decide, as well, how you will recycle your tree after the holiday is over.
  • The lights

  • Not only will your choice of lights and their power source make an environmental impact, they’ll slash your energy bill, too.
    1. Switching to LEDs (light emitting diodes) is 90% more efficient than incandescent lighting. LEDs don’t get as hot as traditional lights, lowering the risk of fire, and if one bulb goes out, the rest of the string still works. They last longer, too.
    2. A slightly more expensive option is solar-powered lighting.
    3. Set lights on a timer to save energy. This will also eliminate the need to run around turning off lights in inclement weather or late at night.
    4. The smaller the bulb, the lower the energy cost.
  • Household decorations

  • How you decorate around the house is important, too.
  1. Use seasonal fruits as decoration, which you can eat afterwards, or are at least biodegradable. Pomegranates and gourds are good choices.
  2. Seedlings or potted evergreens are another option. When it’s time to take down decorations, you will have a tree to plant.
  3. Decorate with bulbs. Amaryllis plants are always popular at Christmas, and they can be potted after the holiday.
  4. Wreaths don’t have to be made from evergreens. Make your own from fabric remnants, tree ornaments, or shells. Or buy one that can be used year after year.
  5. Try pulling a few branches from your Christmas tree to decorate around the house.
  6. Use family items you already have to decorate: a child’s first shoe as an ornament, an old circle skirt to put around the tree, hair ribbons to decorate wreathes.
  7. Other found objects like pine cones, horse chestnuts, and leaves are great natural touches
  • Giving Green

  1. The swiftest way to eliminate waste is to give less.
  2. Consider picking names at Thanksgiving or at another time when your family is assembled. Each person is only responsible for giving one gift.
  3. Determine an upper limit on cost and stick to it. This should reduce the overall number of gifts.
  4. Consider only giving gifts to the children in your family.
  1. Institute the practice of giving handmade or found gifts. Seashells from a beach vacation earlier in the year, a song, a poem, or a handknit scarf are all priceless gifts.
  2. Collaborate with family members to create a family recipe book you can give to everyone in your clan.
  3. Reprint a favorite family photo and have it framed.
  4. Research your family history and create a family tree.
  5. Make a “Greatest Hits” album for everyone on your list. Find songs that will evoke special memories for your friends and family.
  6. Make seasonal cookies, cakes, or breads and give the recipe, too.
  7. Make your own soap, paper, or candles using sites like the DIY Network.
  1. Giving experiences, like a subscription to the opera, a tennis lesson, or dinner at a chic new restaurant are excellent alternatives to packaged material gifts.
  2. Transfer your gift-giving energy towards buying toys for local kids through Toys for Tots, or stocking your local food pantry.
  3. Donations to a favorite cause are always appreciated. If family members are so inclined, you might organize a Habitat for Humanity project—sometimes just being together is the best gift.
  4. Other outside the box gift ideas:
      1. Personalized coupons for a car wash, a massage, or a movie night.
      2. Cooking lessons.
      3. Membership to a local museum or non-profit organization.
      4. Season tickets to a sporting event.
      5. Open a savings account or buy a stock for a kid in your family and teach him how it grows.
      6. A month of diaper service or babysitting for new parents.
      7. A hot air balloon ride, river rafting ride, or a day of cross-country skiing.
      8. A yoga class, pilates class, or gym membership.
      9. Gift certificate for a facial, pedicure, or other spa service.
      10. Housecleaning for a month.
      11. Membership to a local food co-op or other group that will deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables.
      12. Herb garden.

Now that you’ve learned a number of helpful hints to go green this Christmas, why stop there? Try to keep going green in the year ahead and spread the word to friends, family, and co-workers. Many of the gift suggestions, above, are equally apt for birthdays or anniversaries. And activities like composting and recycling are fruitful in every season.

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