With the best will in the world, it is difficult to avoid the holiday season without some unscheduled waste of natural resources. This time of year puts an extraordinary strain on our environment. From traveling to visit loved ones, to buying battery operated toys, sending Christmas cards, putting up lights on the tree and beyond, it all has an impact we are aware of but might find a challenge to offset.
For any family to be completely green at this time of year and exercise every opportunity to be green, the challenge may seem insurmountable. I’ve put together some options for how you can have a green Christmas.
The Grinch approach
There are a few easy to follow steps one can implement to reduce the net effect of their carbon footprint. If the Grinch were available for comment, he may well advise that having no friends or family has ensured his carbon footprint is zero when traveling. This approach is certainly reserved for a green Grinchy Christmas only.
The Grinch approach may not be for us all, but certainly thinking about how our travel impacts the environment is food for thought. If we all made a single point to travel more efficiently for all or part of our journey, what a difference we could make. Book a taxi with zero emissions. Donate the extra dollar or two when booking air fares. Travel lighter, drive slower, use all the tricks you know and can find.
Now, I have arrived at my family’s home and the lights are fantastic. LED? I hope so. They use up to 95% less energy and cost just $0.20 for a whole month of about 500 lights. Compare that to a traditional bulb at $20 for a month of 500 lights and even if the cost doesn’t put you off, consider the extra drain on our planets natural resources to keep your lights lit for a month. And when all the children are tucked in bed, remember the night time creatures don’t really need your twinkling display, so switch them off.
The Scrooge approach
Here is an extreme example of reducing your Christmas waste. Ignoring Christmas completely and refusing to decorate your home. Perhaps only light one candle and then eat a morsel of cheese. This may invite the three Christmas ghosts to your home, but on the plus side they have a zero carbon footprint, so there’s a win win.
In fairness though, this approach will be as popular as the Grinch approach. Lets consider what Mr Scrooge could decorate his home with when talking about trees.
Fake or Real?
In the USA, we grow 350 million Christmas trees. Approximately 30-35 million real trees are sold each year. On the plus side, over 300 million trees are growing at any one time in about 350,000 acres of green space thanks to a network of Christmas Tree farmers across the states.
Did you know?
Worldwide, China produces 80% of all the plastic trees made!
Fake trees/plastic trees are reusable but not recyclable. The initial environmental cost of production waste, energy used, byproducts, shipping materials, transportation and eventual landfill all has a price to consider. Real trees also do not escape the environment conundrum.
What if we didn’t cut down the 50 million trees we use in one year? We could plant another 50 million and the net effect would be 100 million more trees. Consider too that many farmers plant 1 to 2 seedlings for every tree uprooted and sold, potentially even more trees. “Sustaining the level of trees is fantastic, but what about a year of no trees,” said Mr Grinch in a made up interview I had with my daughter. The question was asked “where would Santa put the presents?”
The solution to having a real tree is to recycle it and there are myriad of ways one can can go about this. A simple internet search will bring up all you need on this. I’ve highlighted a few. Here is my list:
- Place gently into your private backyard pond – I know, what a treat for the fish! Hiding spots and feeding ground.
- Replant your tree after Christmas – this takes some fore thought buying a rooted tree.
- Mulch for the garden.
The majority of us that use real Christmas trees will probably opt for these easier recycling options.
- Recycling center
- Curbside pick up
- Yard waste
- Local Scout group pick up if available.
This year, I have asked my own family to consider the environment on just 3 small areas: the tree, the lights and sending cards. There are many ways and means, but the first step is to educate our children on the effects of Christmas on our planet. We want to grow a generation of mindful, greener and resourceful children. We live in Scottsdale and the city provides 3 drop off areas and clear instruction on how and when to have your curbside collection organised.
Whatever you decide upon, a real tree can be recycled. There are many counties in the USA that use these tree chippings for hiking trails and so the cycle back to Earth has gone full circle. Avoiding decorating a tree entirely may not be an option, but with some planning and thought there are ways to ensure a greener Christmas.
The alternative is to offer the Grinch McScrooge combination. Bah Humbug! Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays to you from the Highland Cleaning Company family.