Once again it’s that time of the year when we eat, drink, and be merry to the the fullest. Christmas is the season to jolly. We bake, we decorate, we shop, and everybody is having fun. But can you imagine our impact on the environment during the holiday season!. This is one post from last year that I’d like to repost, with some revisions. Because these tips are a relevant as ever.
Carbon emissions spike up at Christmas time because we use up more than our usual consumption of electricity, fossil fuel, foodstuff, and other materials. This doesn’t mean to say we should refrain from spreading on the holiday cheers and goodwill. But there are ways wherein we can reduce wastefulness without losing out on the fun. So let’s take a look as to how we can minimize our carbon footprint this Christmas and be easy on our pockets as well.
There is nothing more festive and beautiful that outdoor Christmas lights. My kids just love them. Every Christmas our neighbors would lovingly decorate their house facade and their lawn with all sorts of Christmas lights, from a miniature sleigh pulled by six reindeers, to a life-sized lighted Santa hanging from the balcony. Each tree in the lawn is decorated with fairy lights. The front porch is decorated with lighted evergreen garlands. How beautiful they are! But should all these lights be on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Compared to our neighbors, our house has very few lights but we do have some. For my kids, outdoor lighting is part of Christmas. But why leave them on when the kids are in bed? That’s why I only turn them on from 6 pm till 10 pm every day. Also, try to use electricity-saving products, including light bulbs.
Last year, there were times when I’d forget to turn off the lights before I went to bed. This year, I installed an automatic timer to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Although I prefer to take the public transport, the car is still indispensable when it comes to shopping. We should however, try to minimize driving back and forth by scheduling shopping trips carefully. I reserve one whole day just for Christmas shopping and fill the car to the roof if I must, especially with the big items. If there were little things that I forget, I can always take the bus to the nearest mall.
In recent years, I also try to buy lots of stuff online. It saves time as well as gasoline money.
Choose green presents. When buying, here are the questions you can ask:
- Is it made from recycled materials?
- Is it biodegradable? Recyclable?
- Is it energy efficient?
- Is it non-toxic, non-polluting?
- Has it been produced in an environmentally friendly/socially responsible way?
For example, little gadgets that run on alternative energy are nifty. My kids got mini flashlights that run on pure mechanical energy and they are great.
Or what about mobile phones which emit very little radiation? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested several models to check for radiation emission levels. Check out EWG’s cell phone radiation guide.
Another green present I find nifty are carbon emission offsets. Check out the 3 Phases Renewables carbon calculator and see how much of your friends carbon emission you can offset.
On the safety side, choose toys that are safe and non-toxic. Check the consumer updates for recalled products.
After all the presents have been unwrapped, what do we do with the rubbish? Wrapping papers and cardboard boxes are easily recyclable. Check locally for recyclers, then collect your Christmas wrappings and deliver them to the recyclers in one go.
Christmas trees can also be recycled. In our town, the trees are collected in January, to be used for wood or placed in the compost. Some shops, including Ikea, take back the trees for composting and even give gift vouchers in return.
What about unwanted presents? In some countries, people can exchange these right after Christmas. But not is Switzerland where we live. They have, however, a way of disposing unwanted presents – donation to charity. The rule is that the presents, food or nonfood, are new and unused, and if food or beverage, are unopened. The presents are either distributed to the needy, or resold, with revenues going to charity.
Christmastime is feasting time. We love to cook and to bake at this time of the year. But preparing food also uses up a lot of resources, from the food production to the roasting process. And there is always more than enough to go around. But please do not throw away leftover food. I freeze whatever I can for lean times. If you are not the leftover eater type, or if the deep freeze is full, take them to the local shelter or soup kitchen. There are hungry people out there who’d be sure to welcome them. The only exception I make about throwing away food is on sweets. Sadly, ever since the holiday season has started, I’ve thrown away so much sweets which my kids bring home from parties and even school activities.
And while you are at it, have yourself a merry little green Christmas!