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By Dawna Matthews: 

Do you want to share the love this Christmas and holiday season but still stay eco-friendly? Luckily, this is easier than ever before. Giving and sharing gifts during the holiday season need not have a negative impact on the environment. With a little imagination and eco-conscious thought, it’s easy to celebrate the joy and light of the season as well as to show care and love for the environment.green-xmas

Here are some eco friendly tips for gift giving and heart warming goodness to the earth:

· Buy Experiences, not Stuff: Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and must be bought new, but many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. Keep in mind that not all gifts have to be bought in a store, but can be made at home. You can give more while spending less by creating your own or purchasing a locally crafted item or service. These gifts lend a personal and unique touch. Adults especially appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Some ideas are listed here for you:

Services Instead of Goods: A wonderful gift could be an hour’s massage at a local spa, or dance or music lessons. Other gifts to consider are a car wash and vacuum, a few scheduled dog walks, tickets to a show or concert, or museum memberships can offer lasting value with minimal impact on resources;

Edible Goodies: I have noticed that people usually have what they need in terms of material goods, but gifts from the kitchen are always appreciated. Your time, energy and culinary creativity are just as valued as that store-bought gift which they may not really even need. The gift of food is personal, easy on the environment and not likely to go to waste. Some of my favorite things to gift in a super cute glass jar is an easy veggie chili or a cookie recipe. See this link for the veggie chili: it’s so delicious, nutritious and, well, easy!

· Buy Green Goodies: Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. It’s easy to reduce your carbon footprint and support your local community by purchasing gifts with the following in mind:

shopping picBuy from Local Craft Fairs and Artisan Shops. They are good sources for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. I find so many cool artisans in my community who make one-of-a-kind knitted accessories and jewelry. And don’t forget jam from the farmers market.

Buy Battery Free Gifts: According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Check out this article we featured early this year on batteries and their impact on Earth

Some ideas for green toys for kids are arts and crafts, such as Eco-Paint, wooden toys, and gliders or kites. For more eco-friendly toys, read here. 

· Connect with Nature and Your Loved Ones: Christmas and the holidays are the perfect time to reconnect with yourself  and loved ones by being outside and about in the beautiful wilderness or even by your house. This is a lovely opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living in your children, friends and community. Start an annual earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! Some ideas are:

Family Nature Hike or Nature Scavenger Hunt — A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than watching television. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime. Try to write down items such as a pine cone, feather, shell, acorn, flower, etc., for people to find during a scavenger hunt.

Annual Christmas Day Bird Count — Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a

Picture borrowed from http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com
Picture borrowed from http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com

course through your neighborhood, local park, beach, or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

· 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Much of the environmental costs associated with the holidays can be reduced by simple awareness and some pre-planning. Some ways to reduce your footprint are as follows:
  • Reuse or Recycle Gift Packing Materials — Bubble wrap and tissue paper can be recycled or stored for reuse. Foam packing chips are not as easily recycled; if you don’t want to store this material for reuse, take it to a shipping center like Mailboxes, Etc., or another mailing facility that will accept it for their own use. Cardboard boxes should be opened flat and set out for recycling; storing and reusing these boxes is even better, as no additional energy is used in remanufacturing.
  • Recycle Your Live Tree — According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 20-30 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. each year.  Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. Additionally, there is great cost environmentally in transporting all these trees to the landfill. Live trees that have been cut are renewable, recyclable and compostable. Composting requires a carbon source and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood — most cities have specific drop-off sites. Most artificial trees can also be recycled, as they are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers. Please check with your local center about your tree if you have an older artificial tree that needs replacing.

This is the one of the most joyous time of the year when we can all come together and celebrate life, the season, and the world we live in. It’s the meaning and thought that count; and the personal touches make any gift more meaningful and memorable. With a little planning, you can give more to one another without taking away from the Earth while creating memories with your family. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!

About Dawna Matthews

Dawna is a yoga teacher, writer, domestic goddess, and lover of life. She tries to celebrate all the joys given to us in this world by dancing, singing, cooking, and gazing up at the sky. Dawna believes green living is a way of coming back to the self- a simple yet deeply satisfying dance of gratitude to mother earth and each one of us. She lives in Colorado where the mountains are a perfect backdrop to each day. She twirls daily.

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