Santa may wear a red suit, but you can be sure he is a “green-friendly” old elf.
Think about it: He drives an open-air sleigh, not a gas-guzzling SUV. The sleigh is powered by reindeer, so energy costs are limited to hay, a renewable resource. Also a certain reindeer with a red nose lights the way for the sleigh. He also has a bunch of elves to make toys for children around the world — in a fair-trade agreement, I am sure. OK, just one more: The only time he uses coal is for the stockings of the naughty children.
Seriously, we may not all be as environmentally responsible as Santa, but there are plenty of ways to make your holidays greener. Let’s consider eco-friendly shopping and gifts.
The first step is keeping it simple. Many of us tend to go overboard at Christmas. Here are suggestions to help you come out green in the frenzy.
Make a plan. Can you trim your gift list and consider sharing a greeting instead with some on your list? Make a list like Santa does and get organized. Even plan your shopping to save gasoline and wear and tear on your car.
Use reusable shopping bags. Using reusable bags whenever possible reduces the plastic that we accumulate.
Buy local from crafters. There are plenty of talented people locally who craft delightful gifts that will not require shipping.
Make gifts yourself. There are a million ideas for gifts on Pinterest and other websites. You can also let your kids make gifts for grandparents and family members who will treasure them.
Let your fingers do the shopping. Consider shopping by phone or Internet. Just remember to look for items that are easy to ship and will not require more packaging. There are also websites for craft and jewelry items that benefit fair-trade groups.
Purchase products with the least packaging. Products have safety seals to prevent tampering and alarms to prevent shoplifting. That often translates into excessive packaging that ends up in the garbage. You can still look for items with less packaging or even buy items that you need or plan to give in bulk. Buying in bulk will decrease waste and your total cost.
Give your time. When we were growing up, money was scarce, so my sisters and I would sometimes write coupons promising chores that we would do for others. This is also a wonderful way to help children understand what gift-giving is about.
Many families — and some friends and co-workers — consider drawing names to reduce the gift-giving expense.
Give gift certificates, especially to picky people. Gift cards may be plastic, but they reduce the wrapping and returning that can be a part of gift giving.
Donate in honor of some of your gift list. Making a donation to a charity in someone’s honor is another great package-free gift. It will keep on giving. One of my favorites is Heifer International (heifer.org). I love giving needy families goats in honor of some folks I know. Another good one is www.justgive.org.
Give a ‘teachgreen’ gift. Instead of just buying things that are green, buy things that teachgreen. Perhaps a vegetable gardening book with a few tools, or a mushroom-growing kit (it is on my list). There are numerous sites with ideas for adults and children.
If you are going all out, give an eco-friendly trip. There are plenty of sustainable — and even exotic — trips. Check sites like www.responsibletravel.com. And remember: regifting is recycling. Sometimes a regifted item is just looking for the right home. If it is an item that you do not need or want, help it find someone who might. Just make sure you do not give a gift back to the person who gave it to you.
There is a world of ideas for green- friendly gifts on sites, like www.earth911.org, www.sustainablebabysteps.com and even Pinterest. Make this the greenest Christmas ever. Santa will be proud.
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.