I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas...
by Martha Hollinger, SWRC
I'm dreaming of a green Christmas (in both senses of the word -- after spending 43 years in Saskatoon, I could live without snow). But in this particular case, I really mean a Christmas (or holiday season, if you prefer) without waste. Christmas is a time for giving, but somehow that has translated into a time for overconsumption and waste -- lots and lots of waste. How do we cut down on it all?
Well, to start with, all those gifts -- does your mother really need another vase? Is
Dad desperate for another tie? Can't Billy live without another Transformer? There are simpler gifts that don't come with a lot of packaging. How about a gift certificate? A restaurant or theatre coupon is nice; but so is one from you -- could you offer to babysit your niece while her parents go out? Could you make a lovely dinner for mom and dad? Or offer to clean out the garage? A gift certificate for a child, promising them a whole day of your time and attention? The gift of your time is more precious than anything.
Or what about donating to someone's favourite charity on their behalf? If you like to think locally, food banks never have too much to give, especially at Christmas; or donate to one of the many toy drives for underprivileged children. Perhaps dad is a fan of World Wildlife -- why not adopt a snow leopard for him (see the WWF on-line store)? Or perhaps mom worries about conditions in the third world. Check out Kiva.org for a way to help provide micro-loans for entrepreneurs trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. The options are endless. And don't think these ideas can't apply to children -- many of them are aware of problems (or could be told, such as "there are lots of kids whose parents can't afford to buy them any toys"), and want to help. When my daughter turned eight, she invited her friends to a birthday party -- and asked that instead of presents for her, they bring a food bank donation. She felt very good about herself (and yes, mom was pretty proud too).
But sometimes, you just feel you have to buy something. Look for items made from recycled materials (Ten Thousand Villages, for example, has furniture made from reclaimed wood - you can shop at their stores, or on-line). Pick something that has as little packaging as possible, and try for packaging that is recyclable in your area. Support local craftspeople, and stores with environmental initiatives. Try to buy things that are long-lasting or reusable, or that can be passed along to others (toys that are outgrown, for example). If you feel more "activist-ish", complain to companies that over-package, and tell them why you won't buy their products. When you wrap the gifts, why not try reusable gift bags? They come in all shapes and sizes. Or save your coloured funnies for a few weeks, and wrap in that -- it's recyclable when you're through. Or buy on-line, and check out planetwrapper.com for a way to wrap (and unwrap) a virtual gift.
So much for the presents. What about all the food? Well, try to buy locally -- chickens, turkeys and hams abound in Saskatchewan. Reduce packaging by buying grocery items in bulk. Compost your food waste; yes, it's the middle of winter, but you can throw it in your bin with some leaves on top, and it'll disappear come spring. And yes, you may be cooking for 40, and those disposable dishes are so tempting, but don't give in -- of those 40 people, at least 30 are capable of helping clean up, and it'll get done in no time at all -- and frankly, some of our best conversations happen while my sisters and I and mom wash up (sometimes I even make my --gasp! --husband help, and my 8-year-old loves to put the good silverware away).
So you have to travel home for Christmas. Can you drive instead of flying (Calgary's not that far), or take the bus? Maybe you can catch a ride with someone (or even several someones) -- it's cheaper, more fun, and better for the environment. If none of that works, you can buy carbon credits to offset your travel (check out www.davidsuzuki.org for more info).
Make sure you use LED Christmas lights instead of the old ones -- they use much less energy, and don't get hot, so your tree, and the kittens who are climbing it, won't get burned. Try decorating with popcorn strings (let it sit for 24 hours, it's much easier to string when it's stale) -- the kids can make them, and you can compost them or feed them to the birds later. Or glue sprinkles to pine cones, add a string, and hang them as ornaments. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination (and inability to use Google).
Greening the holidays has unlimited potential -- and any little thing you do is better than nothing, so don't feel you have to do everything. Try one small step, and build on it each year. Soon you'll have new Christmas traditions to enjoy.
[Source: November 2008 WasteWatch]
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