Have An Earth-Friendly Holiday

By Deirdre Wilson

Hand in hand with all the lights, decorations and gifts this holiday season is an incredible amount of waste. If you’re looking for eco-friendly ways to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, consider these suggestions from environmentalists:

Rethink the Fresh-Cut Tree

Green HolidayAbout 35 million fir trees are cut down in this country each year. Those used as in-home Christmas trees die over a weeklong period, releasing stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; then they’re tossed into a landfill or community dump. On the other hand, tree farms plant new seedlings to replace the firs cut down for holiday use. And the young trees flourishing on those farms are stronger and better at producing oxygen (and detoxifying the air) than their older counterparts.

The cheaply made artificial trees you find at discount stores often contain PVC or plastic-based materials – not good for the environment once they get tossed. But if you’re keeping yours over a lifetime or handing it down to relatives for future use, it’s a good example of the mantra “reduce, reuse and recycle.”
If neither option appeals to you, try:

• planting a permanent fir, spruce or pine tree in your yard and decorating it each year;

• using a potted dwarf Christmas tree or bonsai tree for your indoor holiday tree;

• creating a homemade Christmas tree out of anything from wood scraps and egg cartons to old computer parts; or

• buying or making a large fabric wall hanging depicting a decorated tree.

Seek Solar

Check your local hardware store, home improvement store or online for solar-powered string lights, outdoor spotlights or lights for your Hanukkah menorah or Kwanzaa kinara. Solar light products need no extension cords or electrical outlets and range in price from about $12 to $80.

Reuse and Recreate

• Prune your evergreen bushes before the holidays and use the cuttings for centerpieces, mantel coverings or homemade wreaths.

• Make your own ornaments out of cloth, painted pinecones and eggshells, paper snowflakes or old compact discs.

• Instead of buying more gift wrap this year, have your kids paint or color on the back side of discarded photo copies from your office; use leftover pieces of fabric or wallpaper; or save and reuse gift wrap, ribbons and bows from the previous year. (Find more make-your-own wrapping paper ideas in Wrap Up the Holidays – Your Way)

• Create gift tags from cutouts of last year’s holiday cards.

Trying any one of these ideas will bring you one step closer to a more earth-friendly lifestyle. Best of all, you’re teaching your kids to do the same.