Dec
12

Be loving with Mother earth this Holiday season, live green for the Christmas

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Christmas does not have to be a burden on the environment. With a little effort and imagination, we can reduce the environmental impact of the holiday season.
Here are some ideas to help celebrate the season while caring for the earth.

Buy Less
Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.

• Not all gifts have to be store-bought.

Before the holiday season begins (Thanksgiving is a good time because the extended family is often together), put the names of all adult family members on separate slips of paper and put the slips in a hat. Take turns picking one name per adult – the name you pick is your gift recipient. Keep your chosen pick a secret, to help maintain an element of surprise.

Your gift list for the adults in your family has just been shortened to one! You can now focus on a special gift for the person whose name you picked, without the difficulty and expense of finding just the right gift for everyone.

Buy Smart – think ‘green’
• look for locally made gifts – many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources – many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials.
• give ‘battery-free’ gifts – According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. Here are a few examples of gifts that have less of an impact on the environment: Naturally-powered toys
• avoid children’s toys that promote violence – there is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is “Peace on Earth”. There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens creativity and sense of active play.
• ‘re-gifting’ is OK – there is much discussion about etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need.

“A great way to teach children the spirit of giving (and simplifying) during the holidays is to ask them to pick 3 toys that they don’t play with very much, and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter etc

Connect with Nature
Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.

Family nature hike – a peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued. Nature restoration activity – planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the ‘taking’ of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

Decorate a tree for the birds – place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. Yo attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter.

“Another way to make the Holidays more sustainable is to use a living tree as your Christmas tree.

Lower the impact of holiday lighting

The house with the most lights used to be the ‘best’. Times have changed. The cost of electricity goes way beyond the utility bill. Electricity drains natural resources.

• Reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays – A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the ‘season of giving’.
• Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting – LED (Light Emitting Diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19. As an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out the rest of the strand will stay lit.
• Outdoor Mini-lights will also save energy. A 100-light string uses only 40 watts. If you’re buying a new set of lights, compare based on equal ‘lighted lengths’. Some higher priced brands have 100 mini-lights for only 8 1/2 feet of length, while some 100 mini-light strings cover up to 40 feet in length. For the most efficient outdoor holiday lighting, consider the new solar LED strings now available.
• Turn tree lights and outdoor house decorative lighting at bedtime. It’s simply a waste of energy to leave the holiday lights on at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.

Remember, never install lights with the power on. Test lights first, then unplug to install.

Choose a live tree
Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. While artificial trees theoretically last forever, research shows that they are typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. Discarded artificial trees are then sent to landfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.
Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and almost ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold, saving both transportation costs and added air pollution. Live trees also smell like Christmas! When buying a live tree, consider:

• live potted trees – if you buy a small tree in a large pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for 2- 3 years without having to plant or re-pot the tree.
• re-pot the tree – if the tree is root-bound, you can replant it in a larger pot for several years’ use.
• replant the tree – if you have the space, of course, replanting the tree outdoors is an option. Be sure to anticipate the full-grown size of the tree, and avoid planting near foundations or underground services.
• chip and mulch the tree – many communities now have a free chipping service for trees. If you can keep the chipped material, it makes excellent mulch for your shrub beds.

Homemade Cards
Store-bought Christmas cards are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for a throw-away item. The amount of cards sold in the US during the holiday season would fill a football field 10 stories high, and requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees. Homemade cards may not be as professional, but they are more personal and just as appreciated. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family.

Childrens’ art work is another good source for Christmas card pictures. Even the ‘scribblings’ of the wee-ones are interesting, fun and especially appropriate for the season. Cut out sections of the artwork which look best, and fit to the required size.

Making your own cards is easy if you have the material to work with. Try to get in the habit of saving pieces of heavy paper (good one side) to use as the backing for your glued-on pictures. “Card stock” is the ideal weight, and even small pieces are worth saving.

Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. (Source: The Recycler’s Handbook, 1990) In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons. In Canada, the annual waste from gift wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,00 tons. If everyone wrapped just three gifts in reused paper or fabric gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks.

• Use environmentally friendly wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp. Look for paper using recycled content.
• Avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper – this kind of material is difficult to recycle.
• Reuse gift wrap where possible – large wrapped presents usually have large enough uncreased sections to be reused for wrapping small gifts.
• Use tape sparingly, or not at all – if you’re going to use ribbon to finish off your wrapping, you may not need to use tape. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse.
• Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap – there are many options which are cost-free, attractive solutions. Gift bags can be made using fabric scraps, or wrapping can be made using comic strips from the paper, old calendars, maps, posters and more. For more ideas, visit our page: Gift-wrapping Alternatives

Reuse/Recycle
• Reuse or recycle gift packing materials – Bubble wrap can be stored for reuse, or recycled. Foam packing chips are not as easily recycled; if you don’t want to store this material for reuse, take it to a shipping center like Mailboxes. etc, who will accept it for their own use. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling; storing and reusing these boxes is even better as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.
• Save any special gift wrap, ribbons and bows – When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse; it can often be cut down for smaller presents. Creased wrapping can be ironed flat. Ribbons and bows are easy to save and reuse.
• Recycle old electronics – New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, cell phones and other electronic items are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced are usually still in working order, however, and should not be discarded to a landfill. Here is information to help recycle these items: Recycling electronic goods
• Christmas trees can be recycled too – real trees that have been cut are a useful material for composting. Composting requires a carbon source and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood. Artificial trees which are up for replacement can also be recycled. These trees are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers.

Note: Never burn Christmas tree branches in your fireplace. It can cause the buildup of creosote, which is a highly flammable compound.

Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill.

This article came from eartheasy.com

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