Remembering Christmases past, I reflect on the ways in which I have tried to respect nature while participating in the rich traditions of the holiday-the giving of gifts, trimming of trees, and feasting among family and friends. Recognizing that there are alternatives that lessen my impact on our environment while adding joy to my experience of the season, I plan to celebrate the holiday "green."Here are some ways that readers can too:
Purchasing gifts Purchasing gifts made of durable natural, non-toxic and recycled materials that are hand crafted or locally produced is a great alternative to conventional factory made products. One of my favorite handmade gifts to give is an ornament called a critter craft, produced by volunteers at the Brandywine River Museum. This year, the museum is featuring gorgeous beeswax ornaments created by West Grove beekeeper Walt Broughton, in addition to attractive wooden bowls and jewelry crafted by regional woodworkers.
Gift certificates to local businesses that sell natural, locally grown and organic products are another option for a friend or family member. Harvest Market of Hockessin sells top-quality natural foods, home and body care products with a satisfaction guaranteed return policy. For the holidays, they offer gift baskets featuring regionally-grown foods. Twelve's Restaurant in West Grove is another area establishment committed to purchasing from local farmers.
A great gift idea for active people could be yoga classes to The Light Within Yoga Studio in West Grove. Owner Allison Donley also offers certified organic cotton active wear and non-toxic yoga mats in her studio store.
The online catalog companies Tomorrow's World at www.tomorrowsworld.com, Gaiam Harmony at www.gaiam.com and Gaiam's Real Goods at www.gaiam.com/realgoods sell an extensive range of natural home, body and lawn care products. You can choose from among natural and organic cotton bedding, books on gardening or solar powered gadgets for camping for that perfect gift.
Environmentally aware friends and family members might appreciate a gift membership to an environmental organization. By selecting a local organization, they may have the benefit of seeing the results.
Wrapping It Up
Piles of wrapping paper cover our living room floors Christmas morning. Presenting gifts in a reusable decorative box or gift bag helps reduce the mountains of used paper that end up in our landfill each year and helps protect our ground-water in the process.
Recycled content paper with little or no gloss is the next best option. The Paper Market in Kennett Square sells this and attractive handmade, biodegradable paper to wrap any gift.
Selecting Your Tree
Every year, our family purchases a fresh cut tree from a local nursery. We help keep a Pennsylvania farm in business, and in return enjoy the scent of spruce or fir in our home.
Purchasing a live tree is even better. Planted in the ground after Christmas, it will provide shelter for small mammals and birds year after year. Native tree species such as Eastern Red Cedar and White Pine are best suited for regional wildlife.
What is a Christmas celebration without food? Harvest Market is a good source of locally produced and organically grown food, selling Lancaster produced cheeses and eggs, and Wilmington baked bread. Glen Willow Orchards of Avondale will have apples and vegetables suitable for any dish.
Beverages such as coffee and cocoa are offered in organic and shade-grown options (meaning the beans are grown under the forest canopy) through a fair trade company called Equal Exchange. Chatham Methodist Church on Rt. 41 sells these products throughout the year.
Choose reusable, washable eating-ware instead of disposable when serving your guests. If you must use disposable plates, cups and forks, try buying recycled content products that are biodegradable either from the grocery store or catalog companies like Greenline Paper of York at www.green-linepaper.com.
Preferring durable, hand crafted decorations that are made to last will help reduce the number of plastic Santas ending up in our landfill. Buying LED lights over conventional lights will conserve energy and reduce your electric bill.
Candles and other holiday fragrance products can be purchased in all-natural options. Look for beeswax or soy candles that are petroleum free and scented only with essential oils.
Invitations and Greeting Cards
Some people are sending their invitations and greeting cards electronically to reduce paper usage. I prefer the personal touch of real mail, so I opt for paper cards.
Options for a greener holiday greeting, including recycled card stock, are offered at any one of the stores already mentioned.
If you plan to stay local for the holiday season, you are helping reduce the toll that travel can have on our environment. Local destinations such as Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square provide fun for the whole family.
When you shop, try combining trips to save gas.
Eco-tourism packages are offered by many countries if you plan to travel abroad. They feature tours of natural resources of an area, and the profits support conservation efforts in the region.