It’s December again, and for most people that means the beginning of the holiday season. For every holiday, there are many and varied traditions, but one thing that most holidays have in common is the tradition of decorating and the exchanging of gifts. Surely any “extreme” greenie would probably want to avoid this excess of consumerism and waste altogether, but there is a way to compromise by carrying out traditions in simple, green ways, and maybe even creating some new ones along the way.
For many people, the holidays begin with a tree. However, before pulling out an artificial tree, it might be time to consider getting a real one. It may seem contradictory, but real trees are actually less harmful for the environment. Unlike fake trees, they are biodegradable, and when they degrade, they put nutrients back into the soil. They are also safer than fake trees, which can be coated in substances that can be a serious detriment to the holiday spirit, such as lead. Many places also sell live trees with their roots intact. These can be watered while indoors and planted afterwards. To be really green, organic trees can be purchased. Organic trees are even better than conventional ones, because they are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, which run off into surrounding land and water and are linked to many health problems. Whichever route, be sure to recycle or compost any real tree.
When it comes to decorating, it’s best to skip the lights, but if you can’t, buy LED lights. Homemade or natural decorations can be substituted for lights, such as strands of cranberries and popcorn, or fresh garland.
For Hanukkah, non-electric menorahs can be used. Put soy or beeswax candles in them, which are much healthier than conventional paraffin. Of course, if possible, organic is always better. Avoiding candles made of paraffin wax is helpful for the environment because paraffin is a product of crude oil. When burned, paraffin releases petro-chemicals and carcinogens into the air. These candles are also non-biodegradable and emit large amounts of soot.
Of course, no one wants to go without presents, and with all the eco-friendly options available, there is no need to. To be really eco-conscious, services or other non-material gifts could be exchanged, such as offering to clean, make a meal or some other type of action that can be exchanged. This can even include donating time to a soup kitchen or charity in the name of any person who would otherwise have received a gift. For those who want a more traditional gift-giving experience, homemade gifts can deliver on a more responsible level. Old magazines, newspapers, catalogs and other paper scraps can make beautiful personalized collages, holiday cards and posters. For those who knit or crochet, snowflakes and other small ornaments can be made out of scraps of yarn that might be left around. Plants can be another great gift that also directly contribute to making the planet more sustainable. When it comes to wrapping, use old newspapers and magazines to help preserve trees. A touch of ribbon on top can make them look just as warm and inviting as the best wrapping paper.
For the first time this year, Rider’s annual display of holiday lights used LED bulbs that will use 90 percent less energy than the traditional bulbs we have used in years past.
Following any of these tips can have a huge impact on the amount of materials and energy consumed. By implementing sustainability into the holidays, the season of giving will only get better. Keeping this planet healthy and balanced is the best gift anyone can give.