Season’s Greenings!
Categories: living, sustainability

By: Michelina Docimo

Handmade origami ornament with sheet music.

It’s the holiday season, and the world is coming around that less is more even on these days of indulgence.  It’s possible to have a more fulfilling holiday by foregoing the commercial trappings of buying needless things that promise to fill our needs.   This list of tips won’t make you feel like Scrooge – actually, you may spend more initially, but in the end you’ll be living the life of luxury.  This is green.

1.  Invest in Steel

Aluminum pans are piled high at the end of grocery store aisles.  Before you buy more disposable pans to bake your pies in and roast your turkey, consider investing in a good set of stainless steel pots.  A full set of stainless steel cookware will cost a couple hundred dollars but you can use them again and again for many years.  Disposable aluminum pans can be recycled but because they are used for convenience, they often get tossed into the trash, especially those that are filled with meat drippings.  (By the way, never add animal fats and bones to your compost pile, which will attract vermin.  It also slows down the composting process because the oils smother some microbes as well as create anaerobic pockets in the soil which block oxygen that is necessary for composting.  So take my word for it and keep fats, oils, and bones out of your garden compost.  Also never pour fats and oils down your kitchen sink drain, which will cause clogs.  Then you’ll need to call a plumber or you’ll try to fix it yourself by pouring harmful chemicals down the drain.  Simply collect any oil into a jar and dispose in the trash.  If, for some reason, you have large amounts of oil and fats, call a local restaurant.  They can lead you in the right direction on how and where to dispose.  I digress.)  You may also want to consider purchasing glassware for storing leftovers too.  Pyrex products are still made in USA.  Buy American.

2.  Buy China

As in fine china.  Actually it doesn’t need to be fine, just real.  No more paper or plastic plates, forks and knives.  Buy the good stuff and your holiday dinners will look and taste better.  Fiesta dinnerware is also still made in USA and comes in tons of colors.  It’s ok to run the dishwasher a few times when you’re hosting large parties.  It’s more green to wash and reuse real plates and silverware rather than buying paper products made overseas, shipped over to the US, bought for a one-time use and then dumped into a landfill.  If you really need to use paper and plastic – RECYCLE – all of it.

3. Waste Not, Want Not

With all the cooking that goes on in the kitchen during the holidays, make sure to collect your food scraps to add to your compost.  Collect items like egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels and waste, nut shells, coffee grinds, white paper napkins and add to your garden compost.  If you don’t have a composting bin, everyone knows a gardener who would gladly take them.

Also try to limit the number of gifts you are giving.  Be conscious about what you are buying, where it is made, and to whom you are giving it to.  Sales circulars and commercials make you feel as if you are missing out on the biggest event of your life, waking up at 3:00 in the morning, shopping in pajamas, brainwashed like zombies, about to die in a stampede of commercialism – this does not sound like a party I’m missing out on.  I’m proud to say I’ve never shopped Black Friday.  It may sound un-American to many because it has become part of the Thanksgiving tradition – but I make my own traditions.  Because the holidays are such emotional and memorable moments of our lives, we associate the idea of giving and receiving gifts with how much we love our loved ones.  Give one good gift.  Again, think about what you are buying.  People always say it’s the thought that counts, but so many gifts are given thoughtlessly.  Rediscover the art of giving.

4.  For Real or For Fake?

The debate of whether to buy a real or fake Christmas tree still lingers.  The answer is buy real.  Here are the reasons why.  Even though you will use a fake Christmas tree for many years, at some point it will end up in a landfill.  If you already have an artificial tree, don’t feel bad about continuing to use it.  If you decide to get rid of it, try to donate to a school, theater, or organization that will use it again for many years.  Real Christmas trees are cultivated specifically for this purpose of being cut down, so farms re-plant for future years.  They can also be chipped and become part of the earth again, naturally.  An even better solution (if you have the yard space), is to buy a ball and burlap tree, and replant in your landscape in the spring.  If you choose this option, consider planting evergreens on the north / northeast side of your home.  The evergreens will create a windscreen, protecting your home from winter winds (which will create a more comfortable micro-climate.  If your home is not already super-insulated, the windbreak will cut back on some drafts penetrating through your home and will require less heating energy during winter months.)

5.  Tradition & Decoration

The act of decorating our homes helps us get into the holiday spirit by taking out memories that have been stored away for months.  Wreaths, trees, candles, nativity scenes, Santa, even snowflakes and snowmen are visual reminders that we are entering a special time of the year.  Again, be conscious about what you are buying to decorate.  Try to limit decorations that require constantly replacing batteries and continuous electricity to run.  Make some of your own ornaments and decorations, which will make the holiday season more creative and personal.  These are the items that will become keepsakes passed down through generations.  All the inflatable lawn ornaments will some day get tossed into a landfill and forgotten.

6.  Wrap Remix

I love wrapping gifts and I love beautiful handmade papers!  But wrapping can be expensive and wasteful.  Here are few ideas to wrap creatively without breaking the bank and generating waste.  Buy wraps that are solid colors, you can then use the same rolls for birthdays and other occasions.  To make the gifts more festive, use old greeting cards and cut out personalized tags.  I also make tags by cutting out abstract shapes and scenes from luxury magazines, creating 3-D pop art.  Save scraps of paper that can be used to wrap smaller gifts.  Use newspaper – patterns from the NASDAQ and comics can be fun, or use a section that is of interest to the recipient, like a story from the science section.  Re-use gift bags.  Add a beautiful ribbon to store bags and forgo the extra box and wrapping paper.  When opening gifts, keep a separate bag to collect all paper and recycle!

7.  Light it Up

Light symbolizes truth and is an important element to all the traditions.  Use candles that are made in the USA, like Yankee Candle.  When stringing lights, consider energy efficient LED lights.  They cost more but will last years and use less energy, so your electrical bill won’t skyrocket. Here is an online source for LED lights:

8.  Spend More

Time with family and friends.  Everyone says time is money, but we value it less and less.  We get caught up in the mad rush of trying to get so much done that we don’t really enjoy what is most important.  Consider volunteering some time to help organizations wrap gifts, cook meals for the homeless, organize food and clothes drives, visit the elderly.  There are so many who need basic necessities, by giving a few hours of our time, we cultivate character and the true spirit of the season by not expecting anything in return.

By: Michelina Docimo

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4 Comments to “Season’s Greenings!”

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