Friday, December 2, 2011

Eco-Friendly Christmas Spreads Holiday Cheer

Thank you, Brittany, for this excellent guest post!

Christmas is a time of year when we reflect and try to be the best versions of ourselves possible. This year, consider throwing a bit of eco-friendly cheer into the mix. A green Christmas is an excellent way to get your family involved in holiday preparation, and will ensure the Christmas spirit is on your mind all season long.

A silver, aluminum tree with pre-lit branches doesn’t exactly scream old-fashioned Christmas. This year, why not purchase a real tree from a local tree farmer? This not only supports local farmers but real trees are also biodegradable and do not contain harmful chemicals like their artificial counterparts. Plus, live trees come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, meaning you can find one to fit your needs, whether you live in a three-story mansion or a 400 square foot studio. Don't forget – live trees give off a fragrant aroma of pine trees, a scent that will instantly put anyone in a Christmas mood.

Take the idea of a living Christmas one step further by using fresh produce as part of your decorating plan. You can dry slices of orange and lemon in the oven and then string the slices up on a piece of thread, hanging the string as you would a garland. You can even hang the fruit garland on a tree outside; you might just entice a few woodland creatures to join you for the holiday. You can also freeze cranberries in a bowl of water in the freezer, then place in a bowl of punch for a festive holiday floater. There are limitless possibilities when it comes to using food as d├ęcor, from stringing popcorn to making centerpieces out of sticks or cinnamon.

When considering a present for a friend or loved one, choose gifts that can be consumed and won’t take up space once the holiday has passed. This could mean a tin of homemade fudge or chocolate covered pretzels for a pal with a sweet tooth. Or, if you know a movie buff, put some bags of popcorn and a few boxes of candy in a basket to use for their next movie night. Soaps, lotions and stationary are examples of other gifts that get used up, and won’t collect dust by sitting on a shelf.

While it may seem like you need a PhD to find the perfect gift for the friend who has everything, the truth is simple is often better. Treat one of your girlfriends to a massage at her favorite spa. Or, for the guy who loves sports, purchase tickets to a local ball game. Passes to a museum, concert tickets or theme park tickets are a few examples of “experience” gifts that give the recipient a chance to do something they love without the extra cost. You can even plan an outing that you and your loved one can do together, making it a gift of an experience and time spent together.

If you enjoy making gifts, use recycled materials, which is easy on the planet and a green-friendly gesture. Use strips of newspaper to make pretty papier mache boxes or ornaments. You can also turn chipped tea cups into charming candles by placing a wick inside the cup and pouring some paraffin wax inside the bowl. Or, use scraps of old fabric to put together a number of gifts, like potpourri sachets, scarves or small change purses for little girls. The sky’s the limit and with some creativity and elbow grease, you’ll have unique gifts that can’t be found on the shelves of a department store.

If you’re really stuck for ideas, give a gift to the community and volunteer. You and your family can make a day of helping to feed the homeless at a local shelter or picking up trash at a park. You can sing carols or read stories to the elderly in a nursing home or sew simple blankets to donate to a shelter or orphanage. By reaching into your heart and giving back, the Christmas spirit will come back to you tenfold.

There’s no shortage of ways to keep an eco-friendly holiday this year. Celebrating a green Christmas doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any of your yearly traditions. In fact, you just might find yourself with a few new rituals you and your family will love to honor each season.

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