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November 30, 2008

Making a Greener Christmas

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

ENVIRONMENTAL - Then why not go for the recyclable real tree this holiday season instead of the faux Tannenbaum, made of metal and PVC derivatives, that eats up boatloads of oil on its way from China to your living room?

Better yet, what about a small potted version that grows – not just glows – as you cart it in from the garden each year? Maybe even a bonsai Christmas tree?

How about sending e-cards or email updates to friends and family, instead of the tree-felling greeting-card kind that only just get tossed with the non-biodegradable tinsel, anyway?

It may seem like too much work to be eco-responsible when your to-do list is already as long as Santa's. But you could aim for "the 20 per-cent rule" – a reasonable cut in conspicuous consumption – and stuff a few stockings with a pocket-sized book that spells out pretty clearly why The Most Wonderful Time of the Year isn't all that wonderful for the environment.

There's all this extra stuff – the packing that comes in the boxes, the wrapping paper, the ribbon, not to mention the toys and everything that comes with them. Any parent knows all the garbage you have to move out of your living room on Christmas Day. Do we really need all this packaging?

Household waste increases 25 per cent at Christmastime, and since the Twelve Days of Christmas stretch into a month in the U.S.A. – where Thanksgiving signals the official start of a month of eating, drinking and splurging – that piles up into 2 billion pounds of garbage per week.

Enough holiday cards are sold in the U.S. to fill a 10-storey football stadium and kill 300,000 trees. That's on top of all those glossy catalogues that consume 8 million trees a year and produce a truly global footprint as many are delivered around the world.

Creating a Christmas to remember can translate into a lot we'd sooner forget, such as the brutal drain on electricity and even risks to your health, including the petroleum-based paraffin candles that may set the mood, but can also emit toxic chemicals from toluene to benzene and formaldehyde.

Then there are all those toys from China.

Even if they aren't tainted with lead, they are made of plastic that tends to break – often Christmas Day – but never biodegrade. Not to mention the less-than-good cheer they spread on their oil-guzzling journey from Beijing to North America.

In the midst of this recession some consumers are opting to buy less, but spend more, for locally made toys or handicrafts. Or they're clicking on websites such as buycanadianfirst.ca which has a selection of products made in Canada.

You can start out with something as simple as buying a real tree. In most cases they are locally grown, rather than crafted by distant conglomerates, and more than 90 per cent are collected curbside and turned into garden mulch by Springtime.

Instead of fake garland and mistletoe, buy the real stuff, which looks and smells authentic and can also be converted to garden cover.

But don't shut down completely. Everybody still needs a holiday.

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