7 Eco-Friendly Ideas for Going Green at Christmas
Keeping Traditions While Going Green
Each year, countries all around the world celebrate Christmas. It is a beautiful holiday with many traditions. The Christmas tree is the quintessential tradition, along with ornaments, gift-giving, wreaths, Santa Clause and his reindeer, twinkling lights and even the poinsettia.
These traditions are quite expensive and they are relatively recent: Christmas trees and Santa haven't been part of the story for that long. It costs individual families a bundle each year to successfully pull of all of those cultural traditions that make up this holiday.
The stress of spending extra money on holiday products is real.
Christmas Has a Lot of Hidden Costs
There are other not-so-obvious costs, too.
In the bustle of the holiday shopping season, few stop to ponder how much gas they might be burning running from store to store, or how many trees were sacrificed in the name of wrapping paper, or the beautiful pine trees that are cut down to sit in a living room for a few weeks only to end up on the curb, destined for the landfill.
Then there is the cost of the actual stuff that we buy—the hidden costs. That portable DVD player, for example, contains parts from all over the world.
Sure, it might help Walmart make a nice profit, but what about that worker in Singapore who is working for pennies a day assembling this product?
It takes a lot of resources in nature to produce all the products we use, as well. Nature and many people are paying a high price for the lower price you see at the cash register.
We are mired in our red and green traditions but at a high cost. Since many of those traditions have morphed myriad times over the last two millennia, I propose a tradition-revision: The Green Christmas. It will allow for less stress and more family time while being kinder to the planet and the wallet.
I am not a Scrooge. I promise.
This year at my house, I am instituting the Green Christmas.
Don't worry: there will be a little bit of red.
With the Green Christmas, however, every tradition is up for revision. The following is my list and I've checked it twice:
1. Gift-Giving (but Make It Green)
Gift-giving started with the Romans and it really is inherent to the holiday. I cannot, nor will I try to change that. But what I do propose is a different kind of gift-giving. There are three criteria for gifts: they must be handmade, recycled, or reused.
Thus, a lot of my friends will be receiving handmade scarves (I hope they're not reading this!) this year and some funky, unique finds from the flea market. Still, others will receive handmade vouchers for hikes or picnics or snowshoeing expeditions.
Will You Celebrate a Green Christmas?
2. Skip the Gift Wrap
This year, store-bought gift wrap will be a no-no.
In its place, gifts will have newspaper wrap (especially with articles about Christmas from the previous weeks), paper bags decorated in reds and greens (See? There's some red!), scrap cloth, or an old shirt decorated with markers or sequins in Christmas colors.
That way, we won't have to find lots of uses for used gift wrap.
3. Sharing Is Caring (Especially When It Comes to Food)
Instead of one person hosting and having to worry about a big Christmas dinner, every family member will contribute a dish.
It can be a traditional dish if he or she wants. But, I'm partial to my Pineapple-Cheese Casserole and you can bet that will be at the holiday buffet, along with Stuffed Acorn Squash with candied ginger (and, oh yes, that squash is from my garden).
If a family member doesn't want to contribute a dish per se, then Christmas cookies are an option: gingerbread, sugar cookies, or my favorite: biscochitos.
My Latin roots come out and I amaze all my Southern family members.
4. Keep the Tree Alive
Some people require a Christmas tree. I get that. Instead of heading to the nearest tree lot with only cut trees, why not check into live trees?
A tree with a burlap bag protecting its root ball will be able to live out its life helping to balance the planet by taking in carbon dioxide and giving off life-giving oxygen.
After the holidays, our family can plant the tree—as soon as the soil isn't frozen. The tree will have the long life it deserves, too.
If you don't want to go that route, there's always the option of the dead tree.
It's not as morbid as it sounds! You take branches, spray paint in Christmas colors, like antique gold, and then decorate when dry!
5. Reuse or Make Decorations
As far as decorating the tree, we either re-use all of our old ornaments or make new ones.
The tree looks beautiful and very family-friendly. (I guess it's time to get out the old popcorn popper. Last year's garland got eaten!) We won't buy bows or wreaths or stockings.
Instead, we will decorate with a small rosemary bush that will continually release a tantalizing scent.
Each family member will bring a poinsettia to the host's house and use those as the beautiful Christmas flowers that they are. Of course, the race is on to see just how long they will survive after the holidays (but perhaps a topic for another hub!).
6. Write Some Poetry
This is a new one.
But, in place of the worn-out Christmas tunes, we will have a Christmas poetry slam following dinner.
Each family member's assignment is to find or write a poem related to Christmas or Winter or Family.
Then, we will light lots of candles, dim the lights, and enjoy hearing poetry readings.
7. Keeping Traditions Such as Making a Gingerbread House
The fun won't be over, yet. I admit that I will have bought a few things so far for this holiday, and a Gingerbread House Kit is no exception.
What I love about this, though, is the chance for all family members to get together, get sticky, cooperate and help each other create something that they can be proud of...well, hopefully anyway.
But the inspiration for this comes from the National Gingerbread Competition that takes place every year near where we live.
As we build the gingerbread house, we try to keep from eating all the candy, but even if we do, the process is so fun and time well-spent working with family.
The Most Important Thing Is Time Spent With Family and Friends
The next day, we will get to feast on leftover food, Christmas cookies, and gingerbread house pieces.
Each family member will get to take their poinsettia to their respective houses and walk away knowing that the planet is no worse (or not much worse, anyway) for having celebrated a joyous occasion.
That is my Green Christmas. Perhaps others out there will have one, too.
© 2011 Cynthia Calhoun