Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, each one of us produces an estimated 20% more trash than usual.

Just think about how much trash is around every gift you buy and give. Wrapping paper, gift boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, greeting card envelopes, fancy department store paper shopping bags.

All of that winds up in the landfill. Unless you recycle. Unless you make your holiday season more eco-friendly. Consider it your gift to the environment. Travel green, drive green, give green.

These tips for a greener and simpler season are from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Some require little or no throw-away wrapping.

Homemade baked goods are always welcome gifts— and they never end up in a landfill! Anybody can bake cookies, even though not all of us can turn out mouth-watering cakes, jams, sauces or pickled vegetables.

Send mail-order organic food, including a holiday ham. This is a double-green gift, since you are supporting organic farmers, who are almost all small and indenpendent family farmers, and giving fresh, healthy food.

Give the gift of your time, such as an IOU for a night of baby-sitting or an hour or two of yard work.

Buy greeting cards made from recycled paper. For wrapping paper, you can create a unique look with pictures from out-dated calendars, maps, or magazines. That's an especially creative way for children to wrap gifts for their friends and relatives. Of course, you can also reuse gift bags.

Give entertainment, such as a museum membership, tickets to the movies, the theatre, concerts or to sporting events. Or, a gift of learning, such as language or music lessons, classes in cooking, photography, or other favorite hobbies.

Give fitness or pampering, such as gym memberships, personal training sessions, or classes in dance, yoga or Pilates, a massage, facial or manicure and pedicure.

Give nature, such as flower seeds to plant next spring, or a hummingbird feeder.

String your holiday tree with edible and biodegradable items like popcorn or cranberries for ornaments, rather than tinsel — which you can feed to the birds in the backyard after the holidays are over.

Find out if your local sanitation department has a tree recycling program. In New York City, the annual Mulchfest program collected more than 177,000 trees last year, which were mulched to help the trees in the city's parks.