Over the years, Christmas has transformed from the “Season of Giving” to a season devoted to conspicuous consumption. We’re sick of the manipulative toy ads, the Black Friday sales, the mall madness, so years ago we simply decided to opt out. We still love Christmas and giving, but we want to celebrate the season in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way. Here are our Top 5 Tips for a Green Christmas season.
• BUY GREEN– There’s been a lot of debate about whether real or fake Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly, but it turns out that keeping it real is the best option. Fake trees consume significant energy and use petroleum-based products in their manufacturing process, plus they’re usually made in China and have carbon emissions associated with transport. Real trees are more sustainable, are typically grown on farms that replant 3 trees for every one cut, and can be recycled pretty much anywhere nowadays.
• TAKE THE GREEN LIGHT– Studies have found that LED Christmas lights, which use semiconducting material rather than incandescent filaments, are 90% more energy efficient than traditional lights. According to a Department of Energy study, if everyone in the United States replaced their old light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved– enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!
• MAKE IT GREEN– Few things have brought our family closer together around the holidays than making our own Christmas presents. Not only does it show people you put time and effort into their gifts, but it saves money as well! In the last few years, we’ve made homemade soaps, photo calendars, Christmas candles, baked goodies (recipes to come), mosaic tile picture frames, beaded jewelry and concrete stepping stones. It’s the one gift you can be sure people will never want to return, and it takes a lot less time and effort than you might think!
• WRAP IT GREEN– My family used to make fun of my grandmother for saving all the bows and wrapping paper, then reusing it the next year, not to mention her proclivity for using the Sunday comics to wrap our birthday presents. Turns out Granny Love was WAY ahead of her time! Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage during the holidays, including wrapping paper and packaging. But wrapping paper/ribbons can be reused with a little ironing, and consider non-traditional approaches, like wrapping a gift inside another gift (i.e. a scarf or colorful sweater). Of course it goes without saying that anything you DO throw out should be recycled!
• GIVE GREEN- Let’s face it: Most people in the Western world have WAY more stuff than they need. This year, consider giving some of that Christmas cash to the less fortunate via international non-profit charities such as Heifer International, Water.org, or Oxfam International. For the price of a gift your friends/family members could do without, you can provide people in developing nations with food, water, shelter and other tools they need to live a healthier, happier life. And, at Christmastime, isn’t that the greatest gift of all? –Bret Love
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Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions, and we’re looking forward to picking out a beautiful North Carolina-grown Fir next weekend. But our eager anticipation was mixed with concern: Is getting a real vs fake tree better for the environment?
The answer surprised us: If you want to have an eco-friendly, green Christmas: Keep It Real!
People turn to fake plastic trees for a number of reasons, including cost, convenience and concerns over the environmental impact of cutting down a new tree each year. But experts insist that artificial trees do more damage to the environment: They’re manufactured with metal and PVC (a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic); are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable; and around 85% are imported from China, which increases their overall carbon footprint.
Real Christmas trees (of which 33 million are sold in the U.S. each year), on the other hand, are a renewable resource with a 93% “treecycling” rate; absorb approximately a ton of CO2 PER TREE over the course of their lifetime (wow!); produce enough oxygen per acre for 18 people a day; and are sustainable, with 1-3 seedlings planted for each tree harvested. Not to mention the fact that the industry employs over 100,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Of course, if you’re truly dedicated to going green (and your local climate will allow it), the most eco-friendly option is a living, potted tree, which can be brought indoors for around 10 days, then planted outside. With Christmas trees, it truly is better to keep it real! –Bret Love
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The season for all things pumpkin has arrived, and many of us in America will make (or at least eat ) a pumpkin pie this autumn. But what to do with all the leftover pumpkin after Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed? Did you know that pumpkin can be used to make all-natural beauty products your skin will love just as much as your stomach? For about the same price as a commercial bottle of body scrub (around $10), you can make an effective, deliciously scented natural scrub that has no harmful parabens or preservatives in about 45 minutes. In addition to making a great personal beauty product, jarred pumpkin body scrub decorated with a ribbon and personalized tag also makes a great homemade holiday present.
INGREDIENTS: 1 small pumpkin • 1 cup brown sugar • ¼ cup organic coconut oil (other oils can be used, but coconut oil is thicker than others at room temperature) • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spices (I combined cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger)
DIRECTIONS: Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (but save them to roast!). • Roast pumpkin for 30 minutes or until tender. Canned pumpkin puree can also be used, but I prefer fresh. • Scoop the pumpkin puree into a bowl and add the sugar, oil and spices. • Mix well and jar. You now have a great exfoliant that smells just like pumpkin pie! –Holly Young
Home gardening is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more and more about the dangers of genetically modified foods. But did you know that many commercial fertilizers are made from ammonia, which is extracted from natural gas, or that the extraction process releases carbon dioxide? Even worse, nitrates in these fertilizers can harm humans and marine mammals by seeping into groundwater, and ultimately deplete the soil’s nutrients.
Fortunately, most of us have the basic ingredients needed to make homemade fertilizer sitting around the house, including dried coffee grounds and unused vegetable matter, which can be used to create compost. But one of the best tricks for all-natural homemade fertilizer is to use ground up egg shells, which consist primarily of calcium carbonate (or, in fertilizer terms, lime). In addition to the calcium carbonate, egg shells also contain small amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and other nutrients.
To use them, simply save your egg shells by storing them in a pot in a dry place such as the oven. Once they have dried out, blend the shells into a powder, which can then be sprinkled on your lawn, garden or potted plants. If your plants are frequented by snails, jagged shell pieces can be scattered in a border around your plants to ward off hungry snails. Soon, you won’t just be making your garden grow, you’ll be making it greener as well! –Holly Young
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