By Mary Jo Viero
Foil and glitter can’t be recycled. Plastic is bad for the earth. Things that say “disposable” most of the time aren’t.
How can we celebrate the holidays while remaining conscientious about the environment? Try some of these easy and affordable ideas.
Wrapping paper is expensive and wasteful. For small gifts, use recyclable brown lunch bags. Use natural decorations to make them pretty – twine or springs of pine for gifts for adults, have your kids decorate the bags for gifts for their siblings, grandparents or friends. Take kids’ decorating a step by choosing art supplies that are non-toxic. Look for water-based paints and markers, and crayons made with soy or beeswax.
Reusable gift bags come in a variety of sizes and encourage your gift recipients to continue to reduce and reuse. Buy them, or make your own from colorful, durable and washable fabrics.
Artificial Christmas trees are made from materials that do not biodegrade. Real trees are a much better alternative. Try to buy from local lots (Beverly Unitarian Church will hold their annual Christmas tree sale in the Castle parking lot on the first two weekends of December). The stewardship does not stop once that tree is lit up in your living room! Make sure you recycle your tree at Kennedy Park or Mount Greenwood Park in January – the trees are mulched and the woodchips are used at parks, or can be picked up by people who dropped off their trees. Consider making a contribution to tree planting program to help insure that trees that are harvested will be replaced.
Light up with LEDs – they use less energy.
Save energy: turn off electrically lit decorations when they are not in use and unplug them.
Make holiday decorations the old-fashioned way. String popcorn or cranberries; use items like buttons, fabric from outgrown clothes or small keepsakes to make snowmen or Santas; make Christmas tree ornaments out of heavy paper with colorful patterns. Ideas and directions for DIY decorations are plentiful on the web.
Some candles are made with toxic materials. Look for candles made with soy or beeswax. Unscented candles are better for you too. Use pure essential oils in burners, fresh pine and spruce boughs, or the aromas of baking cookies or simmering apple cider to make your house smell like Christmas.
If you need to use disposable plates and napkins for entertaining, look for biodegradable options like bamboo. Whenever possible, choose real linens, dishes, and glassware.