‘Tis the season to be jolly but it’s also the season to think twice before you box up packages to mail to family or friends or trash that tree at the end of the season. Most holiday cards — except a handful you might save — candy boxes, colorful ribbons and Styrofoam peanuts just add to the pile of waste already in our nation’s landfills. So this holiday season, why not give a gift to the planet as well as a loved one?
1. Save a Christmas tree
If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, decorate an existing tree, plant or scrub without uprooting it. In warm climates, consider celebrating outside. Ambitious sorts might pick up a sustainable tree or a tree that can be repotted in the winter and then planted in the spring. Ask about sustainable trees at your local tree stand. A few mail-order tree companies are also listed in the National Green Pages,published by Washington-based non-profit environmental group Co-op America.
2. Natural tree trimmings
The list is long. There are the usual edible ornaments: cranberries, popcorn strings and candy canes. But what about cinnamon sticks, Cheerios or tri-color pasta? Pine cones, twigs and feathers make great ornaments but how about those seashells you collected last summer along the coast? Old costume jewelry on a string light up a tree. (If you do use lights, make sure use low watt bulbs.) Political buttons attached to tree branches certainly make a statement. Some stuffers from last year — small toys, novelty items — make great ornaments this year.
3. Green mailing tips
When mailing gifts, use the smallest box you can. Save and re-use any bubble paper, Styrofoam peanuts and even bunched up paper that comes your way.
5. Consider not using store-bought wrapping paper
There are so many options in lieu of wrapping paper. It’s hard to imagine not taking advantage of them. Now that most newspapers have some color sections, yesterday’s news print can be used to wrap up much more than fish. Make the best use of the pictures and print. For example, wrap travel gifts in the travel and sports paraphernalia in the sports section. Prefer glossy paper? Use old magazines and shopping catalogs. Forego paper completely. Put gifts in a reusable shopping bag or decorative gift boxes, sold at dollar stores, stationers and drugstores. Tie bows on big-ticket items. Wrap kitchen items in dish towels or cloth napkins.
6. Recycling bows, ribbons, gift wrap
Stash this year’s bows, ribbons and yes, even gift wrap away to use for next year.
7. Good things come with the least amount of packaging
Unfortunately, toys manufacturers are some of the worst offenders. It’s a wonder that toy manufacturers can design toys that sing, dance or even stand on one foot (what makes the new ELMO such a technological wonder) but they just can’t find a way to package toys without using an excessive amount of plastic, cardboard and metal twisters. Fortunately, many good things do come with little packaging, such as: specific retailer or generic gift cards; gift certificates for spa treatments; tickets to movies, the theater or sporting events; airplane, bus or train tickets; an annual pass to a state park; and perhaps, the best of all — an I.O.U. for a home-cooked meal or a night on the town.
8. Give organic goodies
Remember the television commercial from a few years back where a little girl leaves cheese for Santa instead of cookies. Although a promotion for the American Dairy Association, the idea was a grand one. So this season, why not extend the courtesy to family and friends and send the gift of cheese rather than a tin of cookies.
9. Shop at neighborhood stores or walk to the mall?
Support local retailers and save on gas at the same time. Walk to the mall. Take public transportation back.
10. Stick to that list
As the season heats up, the shopping frenzy escalates and it’s tempting to stray from the list. But don’t! The closer it gets to Dec. 25, retailers try to entice shoppers with last-minute sales and promotions to clear their shelves of unwanted goods. Believe me, you really don’t need that Dora the Explorer snow globe or a companion for ELMO — my apartment is filled with that stuff.