GREENING THE HOLIDAYS, 2011

This past week, my goal was to create my very first Video blog.

Unfortunately, this didn’t go exactly as planned.

In its place, I offer you these timely tips for celebrating the holidays with an eco-friendly twist, based on personal experience and advice I’ve collected over the years.

And if you’re really lucky, the video will still appear sometime this week.

 

TREES & DECORATION

The prevailing wisdom still dictates that a live tree is preferable to an artificial one, since the latter is made almost entirely from plastics, non-renewable petroleum by-products that can’t be recycled.

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, especially if you support what is grown or manufactured locally

Another alternative is 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.

I literally cringed when I read that I should avoid using tinsel, because it can’t be recycled. In my family, tinsel on the Christmas tree is a tradition that goes as far back as I can remember. When it came to decorating the tree it was always my father’s crowning achievement. He would add the tinsel at the very end, ever so carefully and always very meticulously.

Other ways to invite the outdoors into your home, is by collecting pine cones and branches of holly berries, or whatever else you might find that suits your holiday decor.

If you have children, old standbys like strings of cranberries and popcorn continue to entertain; when the holidays are over these can easily go in your yard waste.

 

LIGHTS

Did you know that LEDs (light-emitting diodes) 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 widely available in many different colors, and shapes, and can be found at your local retailer. By switching to LED’s you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill!

Be sure you don’t throw away your old lights; check your local listings to find out how they can be recycled.

 

GIFTS & GIFT WRAP

The general idea with the giving of gifts, is to tread light and give less by focusing on gifts that are less wasteful, and kinder to the environment.

For example, you can give the gardener in your life a sturdy, easy to care for plant which is definitely green any way you look at it.

Plus there is zero waste.

Avoid using foil or plastic-coated gift wraps as they are not recyclable. Instead, look for gift wrap that is either made from 100 % recycled paper, or lends itself to being recycled.

Other 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.

If you want to be really creative, try wrapping your gift with something that can be re-purposed, such as a colorful kitchen towel, or cloth shopping bag.

As for the huge pile of waste, once the gifts are unwrapped, keep in mind that most cardboard packaging and paper can go in your recycle bin, as long as you weed out anyplastic filler.


RECYCLE

So many things can be recycled – trees (which can be composted), holiday lights, batteries, electronics, wrapping paper and of course, food.

For the latter, take advantage of your local yard waste program, and for everything else check out your local listings for various recycle programs.


EAT LOCAL

The newest thing I’m hearing this year, is an emphasis on eating locally grown, seasonal food. In doing so, you will be supporting both the environment and local businesses.

Choose organic produce whenever possible, and you will be doing even more for your health and well-being, especially during a season fraught with temptation and unhealthy food choices.

Whether purchased or homemade, food gifts can be a great idea. As with any gift just make certain it something the recipient would like.

Studies show that as much as 20% of food gifts get thrown out!

As you can see, there’s no need to give up your traditions, it’s simply a matter of tweaking them!