Eco-Rep Green Corner: Green holidays within reach

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas. Or any other winter holiday for that matter. As we get through the next few weeks, our to-do lists probably include finals, homework, papers and, of course, gifts for the holidays. With all the stresses of the end of a semester, it’s hard to think of anything else, but the holidays are some of the most crucial times to be mindful of excess and wastefulness. Do your part with the following helpful reminders to reduce excess and prove that consumerism need not be wasteful.

Decorations. Go easy on the lights. Reduce electronic decorations or only turn them on for a few hours at a time. Reuse what you already have, and if you’re bored of the seashell ornaments, make something. Try making ornaments out of used aluminum cans. Natural decorations like pinecones and real wreaths are conveniently in season this time of year, so why not use plants instead of plastic that simply looks like plants? Food is another festive decorating idea. Cranberries and popcorn strings are more environmentally responsible than plastic garland. If you’re celebrating with a tree, buy from local farmers to reduce travel distance and stimulate your local economy.

Gift buying. Buy gifts that last. A Pez dispenser is a nice sentiment, but has very little longevity. Consider holding a gift exchange at your house so that you only buy presents for one person. You’ll severely reduce your bill and hopefully increase your chances of getting exactly what you want. Look for items that are locally made or fair trade and items with minimal packaging. The more packaging your gift requires or the further it has to travel means it takes more energy to get to you. Also, give battery-free gifts. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard, and even rechargeable batteries find their way to landfills. Donate to a charity instead of taking your chances on another Brookstone gadget. If all else fails, remember that re-gifting is perfectly fine if you’re doing it out of the kindness of your environment-loving heart.

Gift-wrapping. Don’t throw away wrapping paper. Reuse or recycle, and try to avoid it at all by improvising with a scarf, newspaper (the comic section works well), a clay pot, a reusable shopping bag, a painted pillowcase, a T-shirt, glass jars, recycled cereal or packing boxes. Or go naked and don’t wrap at all. If you’re too busy or too traditional for wrapping alternatives, try to find wrapping paper printed on recycled material with eco-friendly ink. Keep leftover shreds to use as confetti while ringing in the New Year. And don’t waste your money on buying gift tags when you can make your own using greeting cards from holidays past.

Keep these tips in mind when preparing for the holiday season. Small changes in behavior in your own family will not only set a good example for those neighbors with life-size inflatable reindeer, but you’ll also save some cash and reduce your carbon footprint.

– Heather Jones

Westminster Eco-Rep

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