Saving the Planet with a Green Christmas

CHRISTMAS GIFTIt’s Christmas tomorrow, and like many modern day celebrations across cultures, it has become an obligatory ritual of gift giving and receiving.  The spirit of Christmas is all about giving to the needy, spreading good cheer, joy and love to our near and dear ones.  Unfortunately, this is overshadowed by all the consumerism and “stuff” that we end up piling on ourselves and others.
According to National Geographic, “Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, Americans throw away a million extra tons [900,000 metric tons] of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging.”

Here are some ways to have a fun-filled Christmas, while treading softly on our planet:
1. Use real Christmas trees instead of plastic ones.  Plastic ones use up more fossil fuels in their production, transportation and from the materials used such as PVC, steel and lead.  According to the Victorian Environment Ministry (Australia),  fake trees lead to the emission of more than double the greenhouse gases of a natural one.

They also stay in landfills for years when discarded or have to be incinerated.

2.  Use locally grown trees instead of  ones imported from far away which add to fossil fuel consumption in transportation. The tradition of decorating and displaying fir trees during Christmas started in temperate countries as recently as the 16th Century.

Given that people all over the world are celebrating the festival in the 21st century, including tropical countries where it is too warm to grow fir trees, perhaps tradition could be accomodated for the sake of our planet, to allow for locally available ones to be used for decoration. Just a thought!

According to Victoria  Vaughan in the Straits Times (as quoted in Wild Singapore’s How Green is your Christmas tree?), the benefit of having a real tree is negated if it has to travel all the way from say, Norway to Singapore.  “A plastic tree that is reused for three to five years will have lower carbon emissions than a real one, which is replaced yearly after travelling thousands of kilometres to Singapore.”

3. Recycle Christmas trees. Most of them are thrown away. Try to buy one that can be replanted after Christmas or find someone who can make it into chips or mulch for further reuse.

4. Be mindful of the amount of food that you order or cook during the celebrations so that there is very little wastage.  Reduce the quantity of meat cooked, as meat is associated with a host of environmental problems such as a heavy carbon footprint, high embedded land and water use, and use of chemicals in livestock farming such as antibiotics and hormones which find their way into human bodies.  Use locally available, organic ingredients as far as possible.

5.  When sending cards for Christmas, use e-cards. If you receive cards, recycle them at recycling points or use them to make your own, out of recycled paper, like old calendars, cut outs from old cards etc.

6. Reduce outdoor decorative lighting to conserve energy. Try LED lighting which are more energy efficient.

7. Avoid impulsive purchases of decorations, that are inevitably thrown away after the festivities are over.  Instead of cheap tinsels and glittery stuff, try using flowers in a pot, or dried flowers.

8. Say no to gifts from family and friends. Ask for donation to a charity instead. Isn’t that what the festive spirit is all about – giving to the less privileged? Recycle unwanted gifts as a Christmas gift to the less fortunate. Save the packaging for another use.

9. Give gifts that help spread the green message. Use recycled paper or homemade wrappers for gift-wrapping. Give gifts of books and notebooks made with recycled paper or sustainable forests. Plants are great gifts to give. Use or give organic and fair-trade products.

Use Experience Gifts that give an experience to cherish and remember, such as a trip to the theatre, or a movie, or to a restaurant.

It’s cool to even give second hand gifts, like the French! According to a study by Deloitte, “about 30 percent of French consumers will give second-hand items as gifts to stretch out their tight budgets but also to do their little bit for recycling.”

8. Enjoy some really simple and heart warming Christmas ideas in this video:


Spread the message of love, hope and generosity of spirit during Christmas rather than that of consumerism.  Merry Christmas, dear friends, and have a great New Year ahead !!


Photo Courtesy: HikingArtist.com



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Posted by on Dec 24 2009. Filed under Green Festivals/Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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