Thursday, November 14, 2013

Greener Holidays

Holiday Traditions for Greener Living 

Traditions during the Holidays pass from generation to generation.  Many traditions evolve and change out of necessity, such as a change in location. The same ingredients may not be readily available for that special holiday recipe, or the gatherings of friends and family might have to change. What about creating traditions with conscious awareness that will serve generations many years from now? Adopting new practices for a greener Holiday is a gift in itself, making way for new habits that benefit our environment. Teaching these practices to future generations will ensure the expansion of an eco-conscious lifestyle and happy holiday traditions for many years to come.

glass straw, cranberry, cocktail
Festive Cranberry Cocktail
Why think "green" for the Holidays? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of household garbage in the United States increases by an estimated twenty five percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.  Thinking of our estimated average of 4 million tons of trash every month becoming a whopping five million tons during the Holidays does not seem to dictate the Spirit of the Season!

Thankfully, many people are choosing to make some changes in their traditions to ensure a smaller Holiday footprint. It turns out, many hosts and hostesses are coming full circle with the traditions of old, choosing cloth napkins, reusable dishes, and reusable wrappings for their Holiday celebrations. Consider the lifecycle of the gifts you buy for others - will the gift be useful in the long run? Gifts of Reusable items to replace single use items automatically reduce waste long after the Holidays are over, and are actually preferred over their disposable counterparts. Reuseable water bottles, straws, and cloth towels, will keep on giving the gift of less waste for many years to come!

The GlassDharma Facebook timeline shows a recent post by Kelley, who uses Furoshiki inspired wrapping techniques: "I wrap gifts in fabric. I bought a variety of yards of pretty holiday fabrics a few years ago, and I reuse the pieces every year. I make fabric bows and tie with yarn. I saw a book about a Japanese tradition/art of wrapping with fabric and thought it was beautiful. I am getting better at it every year. Sometimes I sew a gift bag that can be reused."

reuse, glass straw, hemp sleeves, stocking, holiday
Glass Straws and Hemp Sleeves
Kat added to this comment thread, "We don't buy wrapping paper, bows etc. we reuse paper bags, I get end rolls of newspaper from work and let the kids color to decorate, and we reuse gift bags or wrap things in towels as part of the gift. We make most of our gifts and make gift tags out of old Christmas cards."

The sharing of these ideas is a powerful way to expand personal habits to traditions that others can adopt, much like the sharing of recipes. Some of these comment threads on GlassDharma’s Facebook are full of ideas from others who desire to reduce waste as they inspire each other.

Angela, Inside Sales Rep at GlassDharma, likes the idea of "tree free" Holiday cards, fashioning Holiday cards from recycled paper shopping bags, maps, and junk mail, or even choosing e-cards in place of paper cards.  She also suggests purchasing reusable gifts and combining online shopping orders to reduce the shipping footprint.

More suggestions for greener gifts include:
  • Get creative with ornaments- hand make ornaments from decorations that may no longer be intact like a broken garland or snow-globe, even figurines from an incomplete set.
  • Re-use socks for stockings, or make your own from discarded clothing or tablecloths
  • Dinner out, movie/concert tickets, postage stamps, or gift certificates that are not plastic (think GlassDharma),
  • Make your favorite Holiday cookies or breads for extended family and friends as delicious gifts everyone will love
  • The gift of your time to aid others with their duties may be a most cherished gift to friends and family.
  • Charitable donations in the name of the recipient may provide a meaningful way to express your kindness for those with passions of their own.  Support environmental awareness organizations, a church, or the local symphony for just a couple of suggestions.
Holiday decorating?  It pays to look around your local area for ideas.

Chris shares this lovely idea for those that live on the coast: "Instead of buying (and then throwing away) garland every year, we made awesome sparkly 'garland' with random pieces of sea glass collected at the ocean."

Live in the mountains?  How about a wreath made of pinecones?

The Audubon Society has some great tips on decorating including:
  • Buying a live tree that can be replanted
  • Decorate your indoor tree with biodegradable items from nature such as seedpods, berries, dried flowers, or nutshells
  • Decorate an outdoor tree just for wildlife... String popcorn, dried fruit, or peanuts in a shell
Visit Audubon.org for more these wonderful ideas and more!

LED lights are the best choice!  Read the environmental study that gives LED’s the thumbs up.

California Figs are in
 Season for Holiday Baking
Consider the source of ingredients for your favorite Holiday meals. When you can, buy local! While some Farmers Markets may not be active through the Winter months, there are other ways to stay committed to your nearby farmers. You can join a Community Supported Agriculture Program , but it is just as easy as to check the grocery store labels. This helps cut down on your footprint when less resources are used to get these items on the shelves. Please do not forget your reusable shopping bags!

Do you know about different kinds of plastics that are used for making toys?  The toys made from PVC plastic are not best choices.  Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen. PVC plastic is also known to be the least recycled plastic that makes up many of the toys on the store shelves.

It is important to consider packaging when shopping for Holiday gifts, decorations and foods. The gift itself may be reusable, but where do those wrappings go once the gift is opened?  Thankfully, many companies are mindful of their packaging footprint and have policies to ensure your gift reaches it's destination without compromising our planet's resources.

How about a gift to yourself! The high stress factor does not have to lurk around the quest for Holiday cheer.  Maybe it is time to ditch a few of the traditions that distract from enjoying time with family and friends.  What about pledging to choose less stress and simplify your life?  You might actually expand this idea over the years and focus on meaningful moments as you reduce the excess busywork that often accompanies the Season. Start now by taking the simple living pledge!

persimmons, spices, holiday, food, local, fresh
Persimmons for Holiday Cuisine