The holidays are a time for good cheer, family gatherings, eating lots of goodies–and unfortunately also a time for a lot of environmental waste.
From the dried-up Christmas tree, to the mounds of paper and ribbon, to the unwanted gifts that get thrown away, to all that left over food–it’s one heck of a holiday hangover as far as the environment is concerned. What to do?
Going green isn’t always easy, nor does it always fit perfectly with our lifestyles. But in the greater scheme of things, do we really need this much waste to celebrate the holidays? Here are a few ideas for celebrating in style without inflicting such a harsh toll on the environment.
- Christmas tree. A real Christmas tree is indeed greener than a fake one, but what about after its time has passed? My county has a program that picks up any Christmas tree left on the curb for the first two weeks of January, and turns them into mulch for use throughout the County’s park and recreation areas. What about where you live–does your local government do the same? If not, write to them and ask for it! Otherwise, check for local landscaping companies who may be glad to take your tree and turn it into mulch themselves.
- Gift wrap. I can almost hear a forest die every time I see a huge bag full of wrapping paper about to be thrown away. My family is slowly adopting the habit of exchanging some of those beautiful little gift bags you’ll find in all shapes and sizes at any gift shop such as Hallmark. We give our gifts inside the bags with a bit of tissue paper on top to hide the bag’s contents. When we’re done, we fold up the bags and put them away for the next holiday occasion–and then use them all over again. Talk about green gifts that keep on giving!
- Unwanted gifts. We all have an Aunt Myrna in our families–you know, the one who thinks highly of her tastes and is simply sure that a blue-striped polka dot Hawaiian shirt is exactly what you need! It’s hard to tell these good-meaning folks otherwise that such gifts are a waste–I have been gently pushing relatives who don’t know my tastes to my Amazon.com wish list where they are sure to find books and other goodies I’d definitely enjoy. I also encourage folks to give me gift cards to places where I enjoy shopping. If Aunt Myrna just won’t get it and it’s awkward to ask for an exchange receipt, then sadly the only thing to do is to take your unwanted gifts to Goodwill and hope someone else will make better use of them.
- Left over food. The best way to not have uneaten food is to not make as much of it. You don’t really need three cakes for the family’s dessert when just one will do! Fewer side dishes mean the ones you do put out are more likely to be eaten entirely.
The hardest one of these four ideas for going green is probably the gift wrap–but really, it’s hard to justify all that waste in light of all the deforestation going on. Your family and friends will understand you giving them a bag–and you may convince them to do the same!