If you celebrate Christmas, now’s the time that you’re likely heading out to buy a tree for your living room. Christmas tree stands are up everywhere now, and I slow my pace while I walk past each and every one, inhaling deeply the sweet pine-y scent that I love so much. The green, eco-conscious girl in me always questions the impact on the things I buy; food, clothes, and even Christmas trees (if I bought one!). I got thinking about how “green” these holiday trees really are, and was pleased to find out that while they’re really not that bad at all!
While at first glance it might seem fairly reckless, wasteful, and even damaging to cut down a perfectly good tree, it’s comforting to know that these trees don’t come from evergreen forests, but from crops of trees grown in the same manner as any other crop. Tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree they cut down and the planting and growing of all these trees helps to absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. If you can, find an organic tree grower in your area by searching on Local Harvest.
For those that think going “fake” is a better, more environmentally sound choice, here are some facts:
* 85% of fake trees are imported from China*
* Most artificial Christmas trees are made from metals and plastics, specifically PVC which contains lead. As these artificial trees age, they release lead dust. Some trees even contain warning labels telling consumers to wash their hands after touching the tree!*
* The manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemical known. Released into the air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions, and impairing children’s development.*
* Artificial trees are not even close to being bio-degradable.
* When finally “retired” artificial tress end up in the landfill as they are not recycle-able.
While the spirit of Christmas – of giving, of sharing, of friends and family, is wonderful, it’s so so easy for us to get wrapped up (yuk yuk) in the mayhem of Christmas shopping. We forget that it’s not the gift, but the thought, and the gesture of good will that is most important. Holiday bargains can be found everywhere, and huge sales may seem like a great thing, but it’s under this intoxication that we forget the true cost of things… the social and environmental impact of the things we buy. I always think of Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff video, which looks into the true cost of the goods we buy. Instead of being the crazy shopper that lines up at 5am waiting for the store to open, consider these suggestions for a more thoughtful, conscientious Christmas:
* Buy handmade, or make some of your own gifts – This can be as simple as a jar of homemade granola, or complicated like a hand-knit scarf. Shop at stores like Ten Thousand Villages who specialize in handmade Fair-Trade products from around the world. They even have a page for “green” gifts like recycled paper coasters and this cool fish tote bag made by people with disabilities in Cambodia.Online stores like Branch this recycled dog bone!
have a great selection of eco-friendly gift ideas like
* Go to your local Holiday Crafts Fair to check out handmade goods from local artisans. This not only supports your local economy, but it shows the gift recipient that you took time to find the perfect gift beyond sitting mindlessly on Amazon.
* Consider non-tangible gifts like donations to favorite charities, or symbolically adopting an animals in an endangered species.
* Be creative with gift wrap! Buying loads of gift-wrap, only to have it thrown away immediately after using, is extremely wasteful. Consider the wrapping of your gifts part of the gift giving process! Wrap things in decorative cloth or new dish-towels (which make their own gift!). Re-cycle brown paper bags & newspaper… get creative! If you’ve got kids around, ask them to help you decorate the paper with paint or stickers. They’ll have just as much fun making the paper as opening the gifts inside!
* For your holiday meals, go organic. If you’re including meat in your meal, go Animal Welfare Approved, and buy your meats from the local Farmers Market.
There are infinite ways to celebrate the holiday, each with our own special way. But being mindful of the ecological and ethical impact of our choices will help ensure that the season is extra great! Good karma all around!