Now that Halloween is over, the Christmas season is being shoved into our faces almost as aggressively as political ads. The difference, unless you’re running for elected office, is that the stress of the holiday makes it easy to forget the reason for the season. With increased spending on presents, scads of wrapping paper discarded seconds after gifts are opened, plus ribbons, gift tags, the tree, outdoor lights, Christmas cards… well, by the time Christmas rolls around, it always feels like a let-down, at least for adults. All that work, and what are you left with? A lot of waste.
How can you have a greener Christmas that also lessens your stress levels?
Save Those Bags (tissue paper, foil…)
The first idea is one that I implement, provided you have the storage space. There are so many items you thoughtlessly throw away during the year that can be used in the holiday season (boxes, wrapping paper, tissue paper), while everyone else is crowding the stores:
- Store packaging like bags, tissue, etc.
- White or colored paper
- Used foil, including wrapping on candies, Easter eggs, etc. Clean it before you store it, though.
- Cardboard, including small boxes – even cereal boxes! Imagine the surprise on the recipient’s face when they open a package and think they’ve gotten a box of cereal! Good times.
- Christmas advertisements
- Old Christmas cards (cut them up, reusing the pictures and cardboard as tags.)
- Material, even if it’s only scraps. These can be made into Christmas stockings, as wrapping, even as bows. Remember, the material can always be painted or dyed, so regardless of its age, try it out!
- Pictures from magazines – small pictures can be used to make cards/tags, larger pictures can be used for wrapping (a video game buff, for example, would love wrapping paper with pictures of games and the related accessories)
Enough with the Fake Greenery!
- Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but centerpieces of fake leaves , trees, mistletoe, stuff wound around your staircase – it isn’t necessary. These plastic decorations will eventually be discarded, becoming more polluting waste. Try these:
- A table centerpiece of apples, ribbons, and candies – colorful and edible!
- Candy canes used around the house… hung along the staircase banister, on the tree … be creative.
- Bows, too, are wonderful decorations. Tie them all over the house – as mentioned above, the tree, staircase, front door, even chair backs. A few here and there make a big difference.
- Use your kids’ decorations. Paper angels, snowflakes; any Christmas-related artwork is charming, and they’ll love it. Make decorations together; save cardboard, cutting stars shapes out of it and covering them with foil. These work as tree decorations too, and if made in varying sizes, can be hung up around the top of the tree like a night sky. Use gold and silver foil. You’ll be amazed at how good it looks, not to mention how good it makes you (and your family) feel.
Let’s Talk about that Tree!
Come on, you know it had to come up sometime. There are essentially two kinds of trees: real and fake. Everyone has a preference. But, as I once heard a comedian say, “Whose idea was it to say, ‘Hey, let’s cut down a tree and bring it inside, then take decorations and put them OUTSIDE!’” It really doesn’t make sense. Alternatives?
- Grow your own local, native tree and decorate it – outside.
- If you MUST have an outdoor tree indoors, use an unwanted tree.
- Pine trees can self-seed in surrounding areas. If you have some, or a neighbor does, ask if you can take some of the seeds and grow your own. This is free, you have an authentic-looking tree, and it’s outside, where it belongs.
Anyone care for an ornament?
Ornaments have always been a very big deal in our family, but when I was a kid, we usually made our own, like having our pictures taken and gluing them inside jar lids, punching holes through the top to string a ribbon. To this day, when we get out ornaments, it’s fun to play “Remember when?” Why not start that tradition in your family?
- Ever heard of poking holes in the bottoms and tops of eggs, blowing out the middle, and painting them? These make great decorations, especially if you decorate them with paint, ribbons, etc. Another fun idea (and these are all kid-friendly projects, thus promoting bonding) is to make origami animals or Christmas-related figures out of paper – laminate for lasting effect, even if it’s only tape – punch holes in the tops, and you’re good to go.
- Christmas stockings also serve double duty if you wrap a present with them – then they’re instant gifts as well. If you have to mail a gift, don’t EVER use foam peanuts – definitely not a good environmental choice. Instead, use popcorn of scrunched-up newspaper.
Now, for the gifts themselves, make sure you first ASK the recipient what they want. It’s better than giving them something they don’t want, which they could then throw away. If you’ve got a stubborn one who just says, “Oh, you don’t need to do that”, consider these:
- Plants – good for the environment. Enough said.
- Bird houses - As trees are disappearing, so too are natural habitats for our winged friends.
- Refillable fountain pens – beats throwing out all those disposable ones.
- Vouchers, good for things like “A night without the kids” or “A homemade dinner”. These are very appreciated, as I have received them before.
- Food. Who doesn’t love food? Plus, it’s consumed, thereby taking up less space (unless you count our growing winter padding).
If we all just implemented one of these things, think of the difference we could make. Please, please spread the ideas to your friends, as well. Christmas is one of the most wasteful times of the year. Let’s think of presents for our planet, too.