Between the fancy electronic gadgets that are wrapped in shiny paper and placed underneath a lit tree to the feast of ham, turkey and all the accompaniments we’re bound to consume, celebrating Christmas can be tough when you’re trying to stay green. Here are few pointers to help you keep your holiday green and ethical.
Gifts. Gone are the days when preparations for Christmas gifts would begin months in advance with a flurry of sewing dresses and doll clothes, canning jelly or handcrafting rocking horses or dolls. These days, most of us head to the malls buying toys, clothes, jewelry, electronic gadgets and other goodies. Many of these gifts carry with them a host of their own environmental or societal concerns, such as the mining practices for jewelry or the fact that most electronic gadgets are made with plastic, require batteries or use a great deal of energy. Clothing might not be made of a natural fabric or dyed with synthetic methods rather than natural. While it’s OK to sometimes buy the latest in electronic gadgets, or wear jewelry or designer clothing, like anything else, it’s best to do it in moderation. Here are some ideas for balancing the urge to buy new.
1) Incorporate some of your own skills and talents. Make all natural soaps, bath salts or candles. These are inexpensive crafts that make wonderful gifts. Canned fruits, jellies and salsas also make wonderful gifts. One of my neighbors regularly gives every person on the block a jar of her specialty homemade pasta sauce and another treats everyone to a batch of macaroons. My daughter’s talent is in scouring thrift and second-hand stores for jeans and light jackets which she embellishes with buttons, glitter, ribbon or other adornments, creating custom looks for little money. People love receiving these because when something is handmade, it includes an ingredient that is hard to capture with a store-bought gift: love.
2) Look for clothing and gifts made from organic materials or recycled material. From clothing to stationery, there are a variety of eco-friendly gifts that are abundant and easy to find.
3) Try to buy items that were made under humane conditions. Many consumer items are imported from other countries. In many cases, factory jobs in other countries do good things for the community. The influx of factory jobs can lift populations out of poverty, raise the standard of living and provide funding for schools, hospitals and better roads. On the other hand, some countries exploit child labor, ignore worker safety or violate ethical workplace standards. It’s up to the consumer to know which goods are made under ethical conditions and which were not. Look for companies that support ethical business practices and refrain from buying from those who have a known record for not respecting their workers. A visit to the company’s website and an Internet search are good places to start before you buy an item manufactured by a particular company.
4. Give to someone in need. While there are people in need year-round, the suffering of the poor seems magnified during the holidays. The season is a busy one, but take a moment to pause and consider the needs of the poor. Donate money or gifts to a charitable organization or volunteer for an organization working to make the holidays brighter for those in need. The holidays are about sharing – we share our time, our talents and our abundance with others. Extend some of that to those in need, even complete strangers. Sharing is good for the soul and makes the season more meaningful.
We all love decorating, but some of the most popular decorations can be hazardous. Tinsel, for example can cause severe intestinal damage if it is swallowed by a young child or a pet. Other decorations contain chemical-based paint This year, try making some decorations from items found around the house. Bits of white yarn can be crocheted into snowflakes, plastic bottle caps can be painted with non-toxic paint and scraps of fabric can be fashioned into festive decorative balls. Just about anything around the house can be reincarnated into something new and beautiful. Shop for decorations at yard sales, thrift stores or online. Church rummage sales can turn up the best variety of bargain-priced holiday treasures. Some of the older, vintage decorations are quite tasteful and can be a beautiful way to recycle during the holidays.
If you can, opt for a real tree that can be replanted after the holidays. As for the decades old question: which is better an artificial tree or a cut real one? It is really a matter of personal choice. Yes, using an artificial tree saves the life of a tree and as most people reuse their artificial tree year after year, it can reduce consumerism, save money and save a lot of trees. On the other hand, most Christmas trees are grown and harvested under precise guidelines by large-scale producers who aggressively replant in order to ensure a steady supply of trees from year to year. Both artificial and cut, real trees have their environmental pros and cons, so it all comes down to personal choice. Do what feels right, just be sure to take time out of the hustle and bustle of the season to appreciate the beauty of the Earth, the labor that others contributed to make the holiday special and the blessings in your life.