Have yourself a merry little green Christmas

December 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

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.

Christmas lights

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.

Shopping

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.

Recycling

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.

Food

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!

Meaningful Christmas Shopping Part II: Presents that are Safe, Green, and Fair

December 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

Many of us are still struggling with our list of Christmas gifts to be bought while world leaders are discussing Climate Change in freezing Europe. So where’s the link?

Every Christmas, our carbon footprint spikes up as we consume more electricity for Christmas lights and cooking , use up more fossil fuels as we travel more by car and by plane,  produce more rubbish, and use up more resources. Healthcare costs spike up as more people are getting ill from overindulging and over imbibing. I am currently reading John Grisham’s book Skipping Christmas. The book is hilarious but it also highlights the excesses of Christmas.

That doesn’t mean to say we have to completely do without Christmas. I think it is still the best holiday of the year ever and it’s fun to celebrate. However, we should take measures to minimize wastefulness, reduce our carbon footprint, and avoid compromising our health. That’s why I am giving you a couple of Christmas shopping tips.

Here are some questions you need to ask before buying something:

Is it safe?

TOYS. Time and time again, toys are recalled due to safety issues ranging from high lead content to choking hazards. This holiday season’s most popular toys, the Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters, supposedly contain high levels of the toxic chemical antimony. Other toys can contain more than the allowable limit of certain chemicals. For a list of toys that have been recalled for safety issues, check out

COSMETICS. The EWG has a large database on cosmetics and body care products which have been tested for carcinogen and other toxic chemicals called Skin Deep.

GADGETS. Electronic gadgets are very popular presents for adolescents and adults. When giving cell phones, be sure to check for radiation emission levels. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Cell Phone Radiation Report.

FOOD. The US FDA regularly issues warnings and alerts on food recalls. The recent warnings concerned hazelnuts. For regular updates on food safety and food recalls, check out www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm

Is it environmentally friendly?

Products I consider green or environmentally friendly are those which are made from recycled materials, are biodegradable or are recyclable.

There are CHRISTMAS CARDS made from 100% recycled paper.

TOYS, GADGETS, and APPLIANCES: Are they energy efficient? Why not go for toys that run on renewable energy, e.g. solar or mechanical energy?

FOOD. If you are the organic consumer type, know whether your organic food is definitely organic, e.g. free from pesticides, hormones, and other chemicals.

Is it socially responsible?

I think we should look at the products beyond their appearance and packaging and think of the people who worked hard to produce them. Was the product produced in a sweat shop, by small children? What is the manufacturer’s policy on corporate social responsibility?

The number of products carrying the FAIRTRADE labels is increasing as consumers make their wishes heard about fairness and social responsibility. Check out www.fairtrade.net/products.html for a list of FAIRTRADE products.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.