Friday, December 7, 2007

Green Holidays

Ahh, the holiday season is upon us. Having a green holiday season too typically means spending lots of green, as that (along with the Christmas Tree) is about all the green that is usually associated with this time of year. This year, we've vowed to work harder to put more of the correct type of Green into our holidays.
First, we have a rule that we DO NOT go out on Black Thursday. We did go over to friends' this year to hang out (which normally we just stay home), but since the rule really just applies to shopping, I figured hanging out with friends was ok. It seems an awful slap in the face to the whole idea of what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about (giving thanks for what you have in your life) to go into a shopping frenzy the very next day.
Secondly: we're trying to make more conscious decisions when it comes to Christmas. We've been "blessed" enough to have been given LOTS of wrapping paper, boxes, bags, bows, tags & even decorations from family members who are downsizing. So, I'm giving the OCD Martha in me the ole heave-ho and using all these wonderful hand-me-downs. We've figured that after we use the gift-wrap we can shred it up and re-use it again as gift-bag filler. I also save any cards we recieve from one year to the next and this year I took the old ones and used them to make a garland (I also used left-over red ribbon & gold string when making the garland) that hangs from the curtain rod in our living room. What a wonderful thing to be able to look at: well wishes from loved ones.
Also this year we decided to make an investment in LED Christmas lights for both outside and the tree. It will not only help the environment (as they use up to 90% less energy than conventional ones) but they last longer (approx. 20 years) and will save us bundles in cost! I'll admit that I wanted the soft-white LED lights for the tree, but we weren't able to find those in stock so we got the more common blue-white lights. I figure if I can't get used to it we can always use those lights for outside next year and try and get the soft-white LED lights for indoors a little earlier in the season (well, in the store designated season anyway).
Trying to go green with gifts is a little bit trickier. We are on a very tight budget and can't give as we would love to be able to. Green gifts do tend to cost you more when you actually buy them from a store. So, we've been making our own gifts for most people the past couple of years. Gift baskets of homemade foods and drinks (homemade liquors and this year our own homebrewed beers) and some other homemade items. One year I knit scarves for everyone. This year we're doing a lot of photo gifts. Ok, so those aren't really green, but they're more from the heart. For the kids: we buy gently used things from stores like Once Upon a Child, thereby continuing a circle of recycling. Also, since our kids are young and destroy things, we don't feel too bad when they break a toy we only paid a couple bucks for. This also allows us to, in some ways, buy things we wouldn't normally be able to afford, since most of these stores only carry name brand clothing and have expensive (if bought new) toys.
We've also tried to buy a little more locally. We decided that since stockings are supposedly filled by Santa Claus that the things in them should either be homemade or look as homemade as possible. We contacted a local wooden toy-maker and purchased several toy cars and trucks (for both boys) as well as a name train for Shannon. I was even able to go online and get a stamp that says "Made for you by the Elves in Santa's workshop" that I then stamped on the wooden toys. We also ordered them some sock monkey slippers (wooden floors get cold in the winter!!) and I plan to make a tag that says they are made by Mrs. Claus.
These are just some things one could do to make the holidays a little greener. We're also trying to remember what the holidays are really all about: being with friends and loved ones, and creating family traditions that are based on that. Trying to get along with family members is much harder than it sounds coming from a divorced family with lots of people who don't get along so well with each other. Ok, that last quip applies especially to me. The point is that there is always more we could try and do. If anyone out there reading this has any more Green Holiday suggestions, I would really love to here them!!

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