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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Have yourself a Green Christmas

By DAVE FISHER/ecoRI News staff
In the five weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year, Americans produce five times more trash than any other time of year. Whether you are dreaming of a white Christmas, or lamenting a blue Christmas without a loved one, everyone should be looking to increase the Christmas green. Here are some tips for decorating, entertaining and gift giving for all of Santa’s eco-conscious elves:
Buy a living tree. A small pine tree in a planter can be reused for a lifetime with none of the maintenance and clean up associated with a cut tree and none of the environmental impact of a plastic tree. At the end of the holiday season, you can just stash your tree out in the yard where it will rest until the next holiday season. They’re called evergreens for a reason.

D├ęcor-eat! Gingerbread, cookies, candy and chocolate make great tree decorations. You can create many different shapes and sizes and decorate them with colored icings and sugars. Popcorn and cranberries make great homemade garlands. Nix the tinsel and drizzle the tree with a tight sugar syrup. When the syrup hardens it will resemble icicles, and will just melt off of the tree when the weather warms up or in a rainstorm. The kids will love the new family tradition of “eating the tree.” If you do purchase decorations, make sure that they are produced locally and sustainably.
Green lights mean go. Regular incandescent Christmas lights are notoriously inefficient, burn hot and can be a fire hazard when combined with dry pine needles. Buy LED light ropes instead. They use less energy, create little heat, last longer, and a single bulb can create an array of color. If candles are more your style, choose candles made from beeswax or soy over the petroleum-based paraffin kind. Check your wicks for lead. Some candle manufacturers put a thin lead wire in the wick to keep it upright.
Wrap it up. Many gift-wrapping papers aren’t recyclable. This means tons of wrapping paper winds up in America’s landfills the week after Christmas. If you do buy wrapping paper, make sure that it contains at least 50 percent recycled paper and is itself recyclable. Some alternatives to store-bought gift wrap are old maps, comics, magazines, wallpaper, Christmas cards, crossword puzzles, posters, sheet music and napkins.
Go for a low-trash bash. Holiday parties can generate a bunch of unnecessary waste. Avoid disposable dinnerware and utensils. If you’re throwing a big party, contact a local catering supply company. Most will rent plates, glasses and silverware for a day or two for not much more money than you’d spend on disposables.
Buy locally produced gifts. Reduce your carbon footprint for the holidays. Check out Craftland in downtown Providence for an entire store filled with crafts and gifts made by local artists and artisans. Sure, Hasbro is based in Rhode Island, but its toys are made in Asia.
Give to a local charity. Instead of buying gifts, consider making a donation to a local charity in someone’s name. I believe that there is a Rhode Island-based environmental news website that could use the cash!
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and holistic holiday from the staff at ecoRI News.