I've always loved this time of the year - everything about it makes it conducive to introspection and time with loved ones. Everywhere, there is an intangible feeling of hope as old things come to an end and new beginnings commence. Like with most festivals, the true meaning of Christmas has always been enveloped in a frenzy of commercialism. How can we remove ourselves from the mall-madness and get in touch with the true meaning of this season?
"Peace on the Earth and goodwill towards Man" can also be extended to mean: more eco-consciousness during the season of festive joy. There are plenty of areas where you can choose to go green and here is a small list:
Trees: Real or Plastic? I hate the thought of plastic trees no matter how convenient or re-usable. Real trees always add more the holiday atmosphere but are not the greenest option; a good compromise is to buy a potted tree that can be replanted in your backyard or donated to parks. There are several options to even rent a real tree and even choose the same tree year after year. If you must buy a real tree then consider recycling it and look into local recycling services in the place where you live.
Lights and Candles: Change your Christmas light to LEDs. They're more expensive, but last much longer and use 80% to 90% less power than conventional mini bulbs. LEDs, which cast a bright white light, also stay cool to the touch so they won't singe the tree - or your fingers. Reconsider the amount of lighting you may use - do you really need to light up your entire house? Consider candles made with bee, vegetable or soya wax which are more eco-friendly than paraffin which is a petroleum product.
Gifts, Cards and Gift-wrap: Think of eco-friendly or green options for gift giving. Click here for a list of green options. Consider home/hand-made presents and eco-friendly gift-wrap while you're at it. There are several sources of hand-made, recycled gift wraps available which do not use dyes and chemicals. Send e-cards or personalized emails instead of paper-cards. If all else fails, you can always donate to charity in that person's name. Tis the season of giving folks! Lap it up. Give the gift of your time and volunteer in a soup kitchen or simply make the effort to spend it with your close family and friends. This is really what Christmas is about.
Decorations: Keep it minimal, use natural sources. Stringed popcorn and satsumas still work as decorations as well as gingerbread houses. Be creative and make your own ornaments which all adds to Christmas fun. There are several green options of decor as a quick google will show you. Consider making wreaths of herbs or a branch of the tree decorated with fruit and natural material. Think of using natural, organic poinsettias, mistletoe and holly berries. With a little creativity the options are endless.
Food and Waste: Be mindful of what you are consuming over the holidays and also be mindful of what you throw out. Try not to over-shop and use all food items that you do buy - both can be achieved with a little planning. Plan a small menu of excellent food instead of a superfluous mediocre one. Go organic, shop in the local market. Think of ways to keep the washing up to the minimal. Keep recycling and composting through the holidays and remember to switch the lights off.
Use this as a guideline, but don't stop here. Be creative, thoughtful and considerate. Merry Christmas!