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Are you dreaming of a green Christmas this year?
The holidays are filled with situations that are “less than green”–traveling over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house or just the sheer amount of consumerism, over-consumption and waste that punctuates the season.
All of this excess can lead you to feeling sluggish, and doesn’t do the earth any favors either. Now, it can be great motivation to start your New Year’s resolutions when you’ve had “too much holiday”. Avoid the damage, rather than trying to lose the five pounds you put on, or get your budget back on track. Prevention over mitigation!
This year, try staying healthy and making smarter choices all season long–that way you can have some momentum already propelling you toward success. We’ve do a couple things in our house, and are going to try some new ones this year! So how can you have a holiday that’s both greener and less wasteful, healthier and more joyful? Have a very merry green Christmas this year!
1. Give Greener Gifts
At our house we like to give experiences to our loved ones. We give tickets to cool events, gift certificates to vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and our favorite local retailers. When it comes to gifts we go for homemade items or local favorites. We have some awesome local businesses right here in Cedarburg, and I’m sure your town does too. If feels good to give gifts from local retailers, and I love giving our friends and family a little “Wisconsin Pride”.
If we give homemade items, it’s typically something edible, but crafts are also popular. Sam loves to do Photoshop designs and collages through DLP designs, and then share them with friends and family. We get them printed up on shirts, pillows and other fun items. Last year we even made calendars! We’ve made cute cross-stitch “avatars” of our relatives (including pets, of course)!
We make green Christmas treats for the neighbors like vegan cookies, brownies and cupcakes (because who wants treats that taste “healthy” at the holidays?). We take them around tied in cute paper with fabric ribbon or reuse brown gift bags.
2. DIY Wrapping
I’ve never been a huge fan of gift wrapping, anyway–it looks nice, but who really has time? We reuse gift bags and brown bags. Sometimes we use pages from magazines, newspaper or brown craft paper as alternative wrapping. It’s charming with ribbon or string to top it. I also like using scraps of fabric to wrap small gifts.
Last year I took a class at Paper Source, and they taught us how to make cute gift bags from paper with two tears using this Goodie Bag Making Tool. They make great wrapping for gift cards, and are super easy to create (and don’t have to be relegated to Christmas)!
3. Decorate Simply
We love paper banners and often decorate by hanging Christmas cards up, when we receive them. It’s festive and easy. Even using crepe paper, and cutting out snowflakes to go on the windows makes things seem more festive and the decorations are simple and totally recyclable.
Having kitties at our house means we celebrate “Catmas”–if we decorated in normal fashion we would have three little kittens hanging from the tree, and a floor covered in ornaments. Instead of a hanging from a tree we hang ornaments from garland in the windows and doorways. We also use little cat toys like bells and sparkle balls to decorate. They look festive and cute, and then let the kitties play as much as they want with the decorations. Sometimes it’s easier to embrace it than to fight it!
4. Give Green Christmas E-Cards
So why give paper cards that you have to fill out and mail? Instead send e-cards! You can design your own holiday card and just send it in an email, or use a service like Paperless Post, which has really sweet designs (that are not tacky or overly “cutesy”).
If you love giving out holiday cards, try looking for green Christmas cards that have been printed on recycled paper, or that use eco friendly and natural inks. Companies such as Minted make some beautiful eco-friendly designs, or check out your local artists!
5. Support Eco-Friendly Causes
If you’re hoping to give a truly meaningful green Christmas gift, consider supporting a cause or giving in someone’s honor. Each year my mom’s family gets together and gives a group gift to a cause we support like Women for Women International, Heifer, Farm Sanctuary or Doctors Without Borders. There are plenty of eco-friendly causes, and you can support too. Try the Conservation Fund, the Sierra Club, or the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Use Charity Navigator or Guidestar if you’re wondering which charity to give to. These sites are like Better Business Bureaus for charities and give them special ratings so you can make sure your donation is being used wisely and responsibly! Most charities are more than happy to send out holiday cards letting the recipient know that a donation has been made in their honor, which saves you the hassle of gift wrapping or even finding a stamp! Easy!
6. Travel Green
For some of us the holidays involve quite a bit of travel. When the weather’s cold it can be hard to think of traveling by bike or foot, of course, but when you can opt for public transportation, carpooling go for it! If you have no other option but to brave the roads, plan out your route and make the most of trips by being organized and taking a list. Even taking just a few minutes to calculate the easiest route between stops can help save on gas (helping you BE green and save green too).
If you’re taking larger trips, look for options to offset your footprint by purchasing carbon credits to help you travel neutral. It’s not always reasonable for everyone, of course, but it’s an option for some to consider. Another “greener” option is to donate your airline miles and points earned to your favorite charity or cause. Many creditors offer this service (compare at Nerdwallet).
7. Eat Green
Get a jump start on your New Year’s resolutions by eating well over the holidays. Not to belabor the idea of vegetarian and veganism, but by opting for a vegetarian meal a few times a week you can make a huge impact on the earth–saving gallons of water and reducing greenhouse emissions just by opting for a veg choice. Plus, there are so many options, it tastes delicious and you can even save quite a bit of money by eating vegetarian meals. It’s not too hard to green Christmas recipes.
Not only that, but you won’t have that heavy sluggish feeling that can weigh and slow us down over the holidays (especially with travel, and less-healthy food options). If you’re looking for some holiday recipe ideas check out: Whole Foods Market or the Betty Goes Vegan Cookbook, which offers options for many favorite dishes (my favorite cookbook EVER!).
Additionally, one of our favorite new health websites, Health Ambition, has a vast array of awesome recipes and health food ideas. Matcha Green Tea is a wintertime staple around our house. Sip on some during your after-dinner gathering. Warm your belly and perk up, all while enjoying the health benefits that come along with it. It doesn’t get much greener Matcha Green.
8. Get Moving
Not everyone has to spend their holiday season cleaning up the neighborhood or training for a marathon, but if you’re looking for a little motivation, mood booster and stress-reliever, running or walking is a great option. Check out winter-themed races, or give a new winter sport a whirl (curling, anyone?). I was looking for some extra motivation, so I just signed up for a Yeti Dash in February (with snowshoes provided)! This gives me something to work toward in the new year and it’s a low-key easy environment.
If winter races aren’t your thing, just try to mix up your routine–finding workouts online, or trying new exercises indoors or out, and even putting on music and having a green Christmas dance party in your house. Keeping your endorphins pumping and your mood up can really help you stay joyful during the whole holiday season. It will also help you kick start your fitness resolutions.
No matter what you do, keep your holiday simple, green and bright! Focus on the meaning and traditions behind the holidays to keep the big picture in mind. We can get focused on the ideas of gifts and consuming and getting more and more “stuff”, and lose sight of what’s really important. Instead, focus on ways to keep your Christmas happy, healthy and green!