Going Green for the Holidays

The New Year is upon us, and most of us are moving on from the recent holiday revelry.

Even so, I’d like to leave you with some thoughts on how to make your holiday greener in 2008. On the positive side, you still have eleven months to work this out, and determine what changes would feel most comfortable for you and your family.

There’s no need to give up our traditions, it’s more a matter of tweaking them!

For example, the prevailing wisdom dictates that a live tree is preferable to an artificial one. An artificial tree is made almost entirely from plastics – nonrenewable petroleum by-products that can’t be recycled. Many are imported from China, which affects transportation and consumption of fossil fuels. Ideally, the preference is for using what’s grown or manufactured locally.

Other alternatives are to plant a living tree, one that grows in a pot and can be re-planted later – a great idea, but one that requires a lot of acreage (or ingenuity) for the re-planting phase, especially if you still have many more Christmases to look forward to. Organically grown trees are another environmentally friendly choice, as they are grown without synthetic pesticides and are therefore much kinder to the environment.

The bottom line is that while it can seem wasteful to have a living tree from one year to the next, it is actually more beneficial to the environment.

Another subject of discussion for a greener holiday, is our energy-consuming holiday lights. I highly recommend switching to LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which are at least 90% more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. Cool to the touch, they also pose less of a fire hazard, and will last for thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are now widely available in many different colors, shapes and sizes, and can be found at your local retailer.

The benefit to you is that you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill, while enhancing the environment.

In my family, we actually changed over to LEDs this past Christmas, and were quite satisfied with the results. The outward appearance, as compared to regular lights, was negligible. We purchased white lights, which, when lit, had a lovely bluish tinge – to me the color of new-fallen snow.

If you prefer to keep your current string of lights, try limiting the time you burn them by not leaving them on overnight. Aternatively, try putting your lights on a timer, which also means one less thing for you to remember during the stressful holiday season!

Other ‘green’ suggestions that I have heard of – and will share with you here – mostly cover gift wrap and cards. Some work for me, others do not. Again, it’s a matter of knowing, and understanding, what your family would be most comfortable with.

Let’s begin with the gift wrap, which actually applies to many more occasions than just the holiday season. Suggestions range from recycling brown paper grocery bags to not using bags at all. As an interior designer, aesthetics always take center stage for me, so I’m not so sure I could live with brown paper wrappings under the tree. However, I have been known to recycle gift boxes, which often works in lieu of gift wrap if the outer package is attractive and sturdy enough.

Some members of my family have long been in the habit of re-using gift bags from one season or occasion to the next. This is an equally fine solution. Sometimes it just comes down to being creative, and seeing what you can come up with! As for recycling holiday cards, by cutting off the front and saving it for future use, I think this is another one that requires creativity to pull off properly. Alternatively, many people rely on e-mail greetings.

A rather appealing idea that I’ve come across is from a company called Bloomin’ Flower Cards – a biodegradable card with embedded seeds that you actually plant! Talk about creative!