As the holidays approach and so many of us are looking forward to making the ever-shorter days as festive as possible, this is a good time to think of ways to make your holiday choices green ones. The Green Living Tips for this week will concentrate on home decoration and greetings; look for future entries on gift-giving and festive meals.
Most of us will want to make our homes feel welcoming and warm. That might start with a tip from last week, boiling cinnamon, cloves and allspice. But other scents, too, can be festive: use a few drops of pine oil or other favorite fragrance to make your home feel warm this holiday season.
Of course, many of us will be decorating our homes this season, and here, too there are many ‘green’ ideas. Use LED decorative holidays lights, for instance—one study by the U.S. Department of Energy claims that we could save two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, or more… enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!
If you put up a Christmas tree, consider choosing from a farm that uses sustainable practices. Or consider a living tree (but remember, these can only be kept inside for a short time). Another idea: start a family tradition: plant one tree in the spring to replace the one you may have cut down in December. Vintage aluminum trees are an easy, tree-saving alternative as well; but beware of artificial green plastic trees, which may contain harmful PVC). And speaking of toxic issues, we all need to be careful of plastics or other things that might look lovely but be dangerous; one example is spray-on snow, which contains acetone or methylene chloride.
When decorating the tree, think of exploring for ornaments at a thrift store rather than buying new ones. Or make some ornaments from materials in your home, making it a family or group tradition; or use a bit of paint to give old ornaments a new life. Old cards can also be made into ornaments; just cut out an attractive pattern, punch a hole in the card and add ribbon. You might enjoy reviving an old custom and stringing cranberries and popcorn; then just add these to your compost or feed them to some wild visitors in January. Hunt for green decorations in your back yard: bush stems loaded with berries or dried flower arrangements can bring warm cheer to your home.
If you’re looking for a wreath, consider picking up a wreath form, then decorating it yourself with scraps of cloth, pine cones, or any colorful items you have around the house. And whether or not you have children with you this year, it can be fun to use scrap paper by making snowflakes that can be hung in windows or strung onto a line (The Planet Aid site below gives a link to directions for this and other ideas, such as the “Ugly” holiday Sweater).
Eco-friendly Hanukkah menorahs can be made from a variety of products, or can be found online. One site below recommends a Sammamish-based “Celebrate Green” campaign, which shows menorahs made from materials as diverse as flower pots and even potatoes. That site may not be available now; but I’ve included another below that is brimming with great photos and ideas. Whether for a menorah or just a decorative touch anywhere, consider using beeswax candles: they burn cleanly, and use no materials derived from petroleum.
Holiday cards that you receive can also contribute to the décor by just being taped along a convenient shelf. But if you send cards, think of sending out a smaller number this year: the Digital Media Arts College site below (which features several interesting statistics) claims that the 265 billion Christmas cards sold every year in this country could fill a football field ten stories high. If all card-senders reduced their mailings by just one card, it would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper; anyway, some friends might appreciate a personal call rather than a card.
When choosing cards, look for greetings that are made from recycled materials, or that bear a label that guarantees ‘responsible’ sources for their materials. Green criteria may get a bit complicated, though: the National Wildlife Federation produces beautiful cards that carry the FSC label for responsible sourcing; but the cards themselves are larger than most, measuring 8 X 5.75 inches. Do browse the beautiful cards made by Dale Newman, which will be on offer at the upcoming Craft Group sales; these use a fraction of the paper that you are likely to find in commercially made cards; and of course, they are special for the creative touches that Dale adds to each card. In fact, the Craft Group holiday sales will include some great choices, both for gifts and holiday decoration.
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