December 2007 e-Newsletter

Tips on How to Make The Holidays Greener

Lots of people are looking for ways to make their holidays more meaningful by celebrating in a way that improves the environment -- or at least doesn’t add to the piles of ripped-up wrapping paper, tossed-out cards and shriveled up pines that eventually end up on the curb. According to estimates, an extra million tons of waste are generated nationwide each week during the 10-week holiday season. But we’re not all budding Martha Stewarts with the time, talent and energy to make our own green decorations.

Here are five ways to have a green Christmas that don’t require skill with glitter or a glue gun:

Rethink how you wrap. Most commercial gift wrap makers don’t use recycled paper. Worse, some types of gift wrap, like foils, can’t be recycled after they’re used. So how can you save some trees and still have a tempting present? Simply folding and reusing gift wrap, ribbons and bowsis one option orthat are easy to reuse. Try using substitutes for store-bought wrapping paper, like old maps or the funny pages (but only if your newspaper uses inks that don’t rub off on your fingers).

Get out the shredder. Forget the Styrofoam peanuts; slivers of paper from your shredder make fine, fluffy packing material or filler for gift boxes. Shred pages from holiday catalogs or newspaper inserts -- or even old CDs, if your shredder can handle them -- to add a splash of color and shine.

Use live plants. The long-standing debate will probably never be resolved over whether fake trees or real ones -- recycled after the holidays into mulch -- are more ecologically correct. One way to circumvent the argument entirely is to buy a potted tree, and then plant it after the holidays.

Send recycled paper cards or e-cards. No one keeps track of how many of the two billion holiday cards sent each year are on recycled paper, says Barbara Miller, spokeswoman for the Greeting Card Association. While industry-leader Hallmark Cards Inc. has been seeing “consistent” sales of their recycled line, called Shoebox, for two decades. most cards aren’t made from recycled stock and aren’t recyclable. The easiest "green" alternative is the e-card. About 20 paper cards are sent for each electronic card during the holidays, according to the Greeting Card Association, a ratio that’s held steady for the past four years. Many Web sites, including Hallmark, still offer free e-cards, though the recipient will have to sit through an ad first or subscribe to an ecard service with a nominal annual fee for unlimited cards.

Decorate with found objects. You don’t need to be an artist to turn household items or collections into memorable decorations -- you just need a little imagination and some bits of ribbon. Seashells, your son’s outgrown collection of tiny cars and trucks, and even kitchen cutlery can all be hung on a tree or worked into a wreath or garland. Using household objects decoratively is “cheaper and less aggravating” than fighting the crowds at the mall, he says. And because the results are quirky and unique, they also jump-start conversations at parties.

-- by June Fletcher, a staff reporter at The Wall Street Journal

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