by Cathy Robinson
Concerned about our environment? Here are some low cost, easy and sustainable ideas for a ‘Green’ Holiday season.
Purchase your Thanksgiving meal from local farmers and feel the gratitude of supporting a family close to home. While you’re picking up some local products, why not buy extra and freeze or can for a delicious treat over the winter? Locally grown potatoes and squash are at their most flavorful this time of year, and freeze or can beautifully. Buying in season is usually less expensive as well. Our family’s goal this year was to make all our own jam for school lunches. We grew, bought, and picked berries and apples and made several batches of jam and jellies. Directions for canning and freezing can be found online and in libraries, or your county extension agent is a great resource.
Most mass-produced (and expensive!) wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Instead, here’s a great chance to get creative! Wrap presents with old maps, the comics section of a newspaper, even brown paper grocery bags tied with twine or a plaid ribbon. Those many pieces of children’s artwork can be saved and used to wrap special gifts. If every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Remember to recycle the paper afterwards! Or make the wrap part of the gift! Use a scarf, attractive dish towel, bandana, or some other useful cloth item. Along the same line, handmade cards are very nice to receive, whether made by you or your kids. Taking the time to write a personal note is a gift in itself.
Green Christmas trees aren’t just about color. Tree farms are just that – farms that plant and harvest a crop. Buying a tree from local grower is much more environmentally friendly than cutting one down in the woods, and supports local businesses. Ask your grower about pesticides and other chemicals used if that is a concern for you. After the season, string popcorn or spread peanut butter on pine cones and re-decorate your tree for your yard. The birds and squirrels will love it! Finally, be sure to recycle your tree. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. Most local cities and towns offer recycling and turn the trees into usable, green mulch. Buying a potted tree and planting outside in the spring is another great option, just keep the tree cool and lightly watered over the winter and be sure to choose one that will survive in our Zone 4 climate. There is nothing in the rulebook that says you have to have a pine tree as a Christmas tree. You can use any type of potted tree or plant as your eco-friendly Christmas tree, maybe even one you already have in your home. Being resourceful is just as important as being green.
Finally, LED lights use 90% less energy than conventional holiday lights, saving up to $50 on your energy bills. That’s not a bad payback! Take a pledge this New Year to reduce your home energy use by buying energy-efficient light bulbs. Installing only 6 compact fluorescent light bulbs will save the average American family $60 per year. Be sure to recycle these bulbs, as they contain mercury. LED replacement lighting for homes is available in most home centers.
Every little thing we do makes a difference. Supporting local businesses, reusing, recycling, and using less energy are great ways to live sustainably – which is a gift to yourself AND the Earth. Happy Holidays!