I'm Dreaming of a Green
Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and everything else we celebrate
this time of year!
The holidays are
hard on the environment, but they don't have to be! There are many
things you can do (or not do) to lighten your impact on our
Many people put up lights for the
holidays. If youíre one of them, have you noticed how much your
electric bill rises each December? Beside the cost to you, there is
a definite a cost to the environment in the pollution created when
that extra energy is created - the electricity in our area comes
from coal. Fortunately we donít have to give up
our traditions, just make a few adjustments. Put up fewer
lights, and put them on
timers that come on when it gets dark and turn off when you go to
Better still, deck the halls with LEDs! Switching to LED lights will use
energy than the traditional ones. According to one U.S. Department
of Energy study, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light
strings with LEDs, we could save at least two billion kilowatt-hours of
electricity in a month - enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!
What to do with the
old Christmas lights?
Behr Woodstock will
accept all types for recycling! For more information, contact them at 815-206-5511. You
click here to find out how to recycle them for free with
HolidayLEDs.com. Imagine how much waste could be kept out of the
landfill if all the cities and shopping malls recycled the strings they cut
off the trees each year! (yes, cut off! Apparently, it's cheaper
to buy new ones each year than to pay someone to take them down.)
Paper products abound at the
holidays, so choose wisely. Use recycled wrapping paper. And if you
open your presents carefully, you can reuse the paper next year. You can
even iron it if it is too wrinkled. At the very
least, choose paper that can be recycled. It can go in with your regular scrap
paper so long as the design is not metallic, waxy or glittery.
Make the gift wrap a part of your gift by using a scarf or towel to
wrap the gift.
Click here to learn Furoshiki -
the Japanese art of wrapping and carrying things with a square of cloth.
Use leftover wallpaper, fabric scraps, old maps,
sheet music or even the Sunday funnies with a festive bow - use raffia,
twine or other natural materials.
Gift bags with a little
tissue paper can be used year after year and are a quick and easy
way to wrap. Save the boxes and ribbons to reuse.
If every American reused just one foot of ribbon, we'd save enough to
tie a bow around the Earth twice!
If you send out holiday cards, look for cards made from recycled
paper, and avoid glitter and foil which cannot be recycled. Go
paperless - there are many e-cards available that you can send out via e-mail
avoiding paper completely, or
create a multiphoto card or slideshow on your website, blog, or on sites like photobucket.com. Add some holiday tunes,
snowflakes and your Christmas letter, then e-mail the link to friends
If you receive cards from your family and friends, cut out the front
of the card to use for gift tags on future gifts and then recycle the
envelopes and any cards that arenít foil or sparkles. Or use the fronts
of the cards to make postcards. Cut the front to the maximum postcard
size of 6 inches long and 4.25 inches tall, add the address and greeting
on the back, and send it at the postcard rate. Save trees and money! Or
use the cards to create new ornaments.
Click here for one idea!
The Perennial Live
Christmas Tree Debate continues. For the best (and most
amusing) opinion I've
found, read the Grist's 2004 article,
Say, Can You Tree. Artificial trees are vinyl - 'nuff
We are lucky to have the perfect
solution right in our back yard - Alice & Bill's
Pioneer Tree Farm in
"Though using a cut tree might seem like an odd way to protect
the environment, it actually does. Our
trees remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide habitat for
wildlife, protect soil from erosion, add scenic beauty to the
countryside, provide an outdoor experience to thousands of people
every year, and bring nature into their homes as well. Our trees
are a crop which keeps the land agricultural -- when trees are cut,
more are planted. In addition, we use no chemicals, and also donate
10 percent of tree sales to the local environmental group, the
Environmental Defenders of McHenry County."
(and you may ask - what kind of
tree do the Defenders put up in the office? It's a
second-hand artificial tree
that was donated to
our Waste-Not garage sales that we've used for the past eight
seasons! Reused is a good thing, even if it is vinyl.)
After the holidays, remove all the
tinsel & decorations and recycle your tree. Many municipalities have
programs to pick up your tree curbside & grind it into mulch, or there
are several drop-off sites in the county.
Or consider using it to feed wildlife in
Click here for tasty "ornaments" for the critters!
What gifts are you buying for your family and friends? Look
for things without excess packaging and things that are useful to the
recipient, not something that will end up at the resale shop or in the
waste stream. Shopping at garage sales or resale shops for gifts can be
an adventure and give items a second life. And when you go to
the store, bring your own cloth shopping bags!
Intangibles such as Defenders, zoo or museum memberships make great gifts.
Or give a gift of time and
companionship: a chore such as window washing, babysitting, snow shoveling or
yard work. Try gifting homemade treats like cookies, jellies,
or cinnamon bread.
Defenders gift memberships start at $25, and
include a Live Lightly bumper sticker. Give a membership at $50 or more,
and you'll get a Defenders' t-shirt for your "giftee" and one for
yourself! You can pick up a
New member packet at the office, or we can mail it to either you or the
Are you shipping
gifts? Styrofoam packing peanuts are good for protection, but lousy for
Defenders' often has reused peanuts and
bubblewrap available for sale - call the office. We
collect the used peanuts & wrap at our monthly recycling drives, and we
encourage you to bring us any that extra that you have.
Include a note with your gifts
on how to recycle them when they are no longer wanted. This is
especially helpful for electronics and items with batteries. Make it
easy for family and friends to recycle by providing information from
Countyís Green Guide (also available in paper form at the Defenders'
When you're out
shopping, ride with friends or take public transportation (Chicago even
decorates some of the El cars!) And if you shop locally, you'll also be
supporting your community.
If you have to
drive alone, plan ahead and combine your errands into one trip. Every
gallon of gas saved is a benefit to the environment!
Shop On-Line! Believe it
or not it's 40% more energy efficient to have products shipped via air
freight, and 90% more efficient via truck.
Go ahead and bring out the good
china and crystal for your holiday dinners - more
festive than paper plates, and better for Mother Earth! Besides, cloth napkins are
just classier :-) Having a huge crowd? Consider renting the needed
plates & flatware instead of using disposables or buying new. Or ask
everyone to bring their own non-disposable place setting.
Need a beautiful,
earth-friendly centerpiece? Prune a few evergreen boughs from your yard,
accent with dried seed pods, rose hips, and pine cones. Tuck in a few
shiny Christmas ornaments for a little sparkle.
Making small changes in our traditions will help our environment. With some
creative planning we can have wonderful holidays without negatively
impacting the environment. Letís all have a Green Holiday - our Earth
Do you have other great eco-tips
for the holidays? Send us an email!