For the Holidays, I wanted to set the right example for my children on how to view the holidays, appreciate what they have and also respect the planet. Last year, they got a huge pile of gifts from friends and family, and I don’t want them to view the holidays as so materialistic. Any suggestions?
-Remembering the Spirit of Christmas in Ridgewood
Dear Spirit of Christmas:
I commend your thoughts. Not only do we have so much to be thankful for, but we also have a moral imperative to others and the planet. Below, I have put down some of my favorite Sustainable Holiday Tips. I hope you find some or all of them, useful for your family!
Donate your time or money to those less fortunate.
Whether it is a local soup kitchen, religious organization, taking care of a specific family in need, or for Hurricane Sandy victims, take the time to help others. This is the fabric that makes our society wonderful! To me it was amazing how the planet’s best musicians came together on 12/12/12 for a common cause.
Donate “Gently Used” items to local charitable organizations.
Books, video games, toys, coats, clothing, and other items could travel from home to home, and make many children happy. This reduces the need to make more toys (using additional resources), and keeps them from ending up in a landfill.
Why travel to a store or mall many miles away, when there are options closer to home? Support our local businesses. They will appreciate the support this year, and you will most likely find that they often provide top-notch service!
Use LED Holiday lights.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), all of your traditional lights are now obsolete, as they use so much electricity. They should be replaced with ones that use 1/5th of the electricity. This goes for Christmas tree lights, Menorah lights, window candlelights and exterior decorative lights. Solar exterior lights are performing quite well too, so you may want to check them out. A timer to limit the amount of time that lights are on will also reduce energy use. No need to keep them lit throughout the night, or during daylight hours.
Minimize the use of wrapping paper and packaging.
Think about how much paper, bubble wrap, styrofoam, and cardboard boxes are thrown out at your home. Instead be creative – think about using newspaper to wrap packages and then recycle it afterwards, instead of ending up in a landfill. Stored bags can be used over and over again.
“Re-gifting” is perfectly acceptable.
It is always a wonderful feeling to give a gift. If a gift is not needed, then there are others that would greatly appreciate those gift items. If donated to a charity, you could also get a tax benefit. Alternatively, return gifts that you will not use to the store. What a shame it is to have those items sit in your closet for years, only to be thrown away, or end up in a garage sale.
Close the flue.
Be sure to close the flue after a fire and all the embers are burned out. More times than not, fireplace flues are left open, which allows heat to escape the house at a surprising rate.
PLEASE DO NOT CUT DOWN ANY MORE TREES. It seems like the recent storms have convinced many people to cut down perfectly healthy trees. This is very short-sighted, has negative impacts on the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, stormwater management for the area, home energy use and property values. This is not so much for the holidays, but I had to throw this one in, because seeing so many healthy trees being removed as a knee-jerk reaction to the storm has put a damper on an otherwise wonderful Holiday Season!
Good luck in making a planet a better place for your family, and have a wonderful Holiday Season!