With the holidays fast approaching, many people are ramping up to prepare for decorating, celebrating, and, of course, gift giving. Those who are concerned about the environment have more options than ever this year to ensure that their gifts are not going to have long-lasting negative effects on the world.
At this time of year, the decorating options abound. From plastic banners to plastic trees, it can be a real dilemma to be both festive and environmentally conscious. Luckily, some of the best decorations this time of year are natural, and you can find all kinds of wonderful, naturally-biodegradable options in your backyard and supermarket. Fruits like cranberries and oranges make a big statement when placed in large glass containers, and holly and evergreen boughs can be draped over almost everything to add color and fragrance to your home. The most important thing is to try and think about decorating from a natural standpoint so that when the holidays are over in your home they don’t live on in your landfill.
2. Place Settings
It’s true that disposable place settings make clean-up a breeze during the holidays, but plastic and Styrofoam plates, cutlery and cups end up clogging our landfills with materials that almost never decompose. Luckily, there are choices for the eco-friendly hostess. Look for recycled and/or biodegradable options instead. Products made from corn are durable and useful, but the break down in a landfill after a few months. By using these products instead of paper, plastics and Syrofoams means less energy is used to create them and there is almost no damage to the environment.
When planning your menu choose organic and locally-grown foods, which require less of energy to get to your table and leave less of an impact on the Earth’s resources. Foods certified USDA Organic are produced without the use of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers. Additionally, they are based on meat not treated with antibiotics and growth hormones, both of which have been shown to pollute water sources like lakes, rivers and the ocean. Genetically modified organisms, which reduce biodiversity, are not used in Organic foods. Finally, Organic foods do not undergo irradiation to kill bacteria.
At the very least, remember to have a recycling bin available at all of your holiday gatherings so that all those cans and bottles can be easily recycled by your guests. You may also want to seek out some great organic and natural choices when it comes to the drinks themselves. From sodas to wines, you can seek contents and packaging that are more environmentally friendly. For example, Whole Foods carries an organic wine packaged in Tetra Pak paper-based cartons.
1. Intangible Gifts
Some of the most eco-conscious gifts are those that don’t involve any wrapping paper. These gifts provide resources that last long after the holidays are over and are an excellent way to give someone something that does good for the world. Ideas include: donating time or money to a charity that means something to the recipient; buying carbon offsets on behalf of the recipient; planting a forest in the recipient’s name; or sponsoring an endangered animal.
2. Educational Gifts
If you have people on your list who have expressed interest in being more green, but simply don’t know where to begin, you can give them something that helps them become more aware of the Green movement. Almost all bookstores carry a broad array of choices, including books like “Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet.” If the recipient enjoys cooking, you could try one of many organic food cook books, like “The Organic Cook’s Bible,” and if he enjoys gardening, “Organic Gardening for Dummies” might be a nice choice.
3. Traditional Gifts
You don’t have to look far to get wonderful traditional gifts like toys, linens and clothing that don’t negatively impact the environment. For example, you can find clothing made of organic cotton in many major retailers today. Bamboo towels, socks and bathrobes are amazingly silky-soft, and have antibacterial properties in addition to being environmentally sound. Wooden toys built from sustainable trees are also an excellent choice for children.
There are many healthy, green options available on the market for the holidays, so make the extra effort this year to pick products that will bring joy today without negatively impacting our tomorrows.