Environmental Defense Dreams Of A Green Christmas, Chanukah & Kwanzaa

December 5, 2000

According to Environmental Defense, the greenbacks you spend on gifts this holiday season can also make the world a greener place. If you follow some basic guidelines, the gifts you buy will bring joy to friends, relatives, and to Mother Nature.

“If a tree is part of your celebration, buy one that can be replanted in your yard. If you can’t replant your tree, compost it after the holidays, along with wreaths and other ‘live’ decorations,” said Environmental Defense project manager Elizabeth Sturcken. “It’s not too late to start a compost pile. Check with your local hardware store or gardening center for information, or check out municipal composting options. Another alternative is an artificial tree, many of which will last for years. If you decorate a tree, try to minimize the size, number and use of electric lights. You can use edible decorations like popcorn and cranberry strings which can be fed to birds after the holiday.”

Sturcken recommends giving holiday cards made from recycled paper, and using reusable or recyclable wrapping paper. “When giving someone a gift, skip the card and sign your name right on the box. A gift has the same value if it is wrapped in newspaper or cloth instead of in bleached and heavily dyed paper. Recycling newspaper and reusing cloth can make holiday cleanup a breeze. Use the comics for kids or the arts section for your favorite artist. If you are mailing gifts, use newspaper or real popcorn instead of plastic foam peanuts for cushioning,” said Sturcken.

Gifts that help reduce environmental impacts include household goods like plants, reusable napkins or reusable canvas shopping bags. Try giving something a little less material but a lot more fun, like home-baked goods or movie tickets. Educational items like nature books or memberships to environmental groups make good gifts too.

Finally, look for gifts that are durable; not over-packaged; energy efficient; recycled (for example, antiques or used bikes); recyclable; and not made of tropical woods like teak, rosewood or mahogany. Toys that wind up or use rechargeable batteries are also environmentally friendly.

If you are planning a holiday party or open house, try not to use disposable utensils, plates, napkins or tablecloths. If you have a lot of extra food, donate it to a shelter. Also, make sure your guests recycle beverage containers and compost food scraps.

Gift buyers can help reduce traffic and air pollution by minimizing their driving. Environmental Defense recommends going shopping by public transportation. Shoppers should try to combine car trips, or carpool with family, friends and neighbors.

“Most of all use this holiday to think about your everyday habits and actions to reduce waste 365 days a year. Individual actions can make a huge difference in our future,” said Sturcken.