Sunday, November 09, 2008

How to have an eco-friendly holiday

Over consumption - of energy, raw materials, and land - is the central cause of most environmental problems. Unfortunately it is also the central cultural practice in American winter holiday rituals.

We eat huge feasts on Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas Eve, and Christmas. We cut down trees and cover them in baubles to decorate. We hang lights and run them for hours every night. We send cards through the mail to everyone we know. We buy and give material gifts to many people. We party with excess every December 31.

Changing consumption habits is the simplest way to reduce the human environmental impact. The holidays are full of opportunities to do this without losing the meaning and joy of holiday rituals. Here are some things we do in our family to reduce our environmental impact and increase the spirit of the season:

Decorate a potted indoor tree - our Norfolk Island pine has been kept alive for three years running now!
Reuse decorations year to year - they become family heirlooms
Send holiday postcards - to save paper and transportation fuel because they weigh less
Run one strand of lights around the porch and one inside around the tree, both with limited timers
Donate time or money to local food banks for holiday meals
Make gifts at home, purchase green gifts, or skip material gifts in favor of sharing a meal or time with the special people in our lives

What do you do to "green" the holidays?

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