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7 Eco-Friendly Ideas for Going Green at Christmas

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

It's possible to keep our beloved Christmas traditions while being good to the planer. Here are some ideas.

It's possible to keep our beloved Christmas traditions while being good to the planer. Here are some ideas.

Keeping Traditions While Going Green

Each year, countries all around the world celebrate Christmas. It is a beautiful holiday with many traditions. The Christmas tree is the quintessential tradition, along with ornaments, gift-giving, wreaths, Santa Clause and his reindeer, twinkling lights and even the poinsettia.

These traditions are quite expensive and they are relatively recent: Christmas trees and Santa haven't been part of the story for that long. It costs individual families a bundle each year to successfully pull of all of those cultural traditions that make up this holiday.

The stress of spending extra money on holiday products is real.

My handmade scarves are one of my favorite presents to give.

My handmade scarves are one of my favorite presents to give.

Christmas Has a Lot of Hidden Costs

There are other not-so-obvious costs, too.

In the bustle of the holiday shopping season, few stop to ponder how much gas they might be burning running from store to store, or how many trees were sacrificed in the name of wrapping paper, or the beautiful pine trees that are cut down to sit in a living room for a few weeks only to end up on the curb, destined for the landfill.

Then there is the cost of the actual stuff that we buy—the hidden costs. That portable DVD player, for example, contains parts from all over the world.

Sure, it might help Walmart make a nice profit, but what about that worker in Singapore who is working for pennies a day assembling this product?

It takes a lot of resources in nature to produce all the products we use, as well. Nature and many people are paying a high price for the lower price you see at the cash register.

We are mired in our red and green traditions but at a high cost. Since many of those traditions have morphed myriad times over the last two millennia, I propose a tradition-revision: The Green Christmas. It will allow for less stress and more family time while being kinder to the planet and the wallet.

I am not a Scrooge. I promise.

This year at my house, I am instituting the Green Christmas.

Don't worry: there will be a little bit of red.

With the Green Christmas, however, every tradition is up for revision. The following is my list and I've checked it twice:

1. Gift-Giving (but Make It Green)

Gift-giving started with the Romans and it really is inherent to the holiday. I cannot, nor will I try to change that. But what I do propose is a different kind of gift-giving. There are three criteria for gifts: they must be handmade, recycled, or reused.

Thus, a lot of my friends will be receiving handmade scarves (I hope they're not reading this!) this year and some funky, unique finds from the flea market. Still, others will receive handmade vouchers for hikes or picnics or snowshoeing expeditions.

Rosemary is a green way to decorate.  It is also the Herb of Remembrance.  What a way to Remember Christmas!

Rosemary is a green way to decorate. It is also the Herb of Remembrance. What a way to Remember Christmas!

2. Skip the Gift Wrap

This year, store-bought gift wrap will be a no-no.

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In its place, gifts will have newspaper wrap (especially with articles about Christmas from the previous weeks), paper bags decorated in reds and greens (See? There's some red!), scrap cloth, or an old shirt decorated with markers or sequins in Christmas colors.

That way, we won't have to find lots of uses for used gift wrap.

3. Sharing Is Caring (Especially When It Comes to Food)

Instead of one person hosting and having to worry about a big Christmas dinner, every family member will contribute a dish.

It can be a traditional dish if he or she wants. But, I'm partial to my Pineapple-Cheese Casserole and you can bet that will be at the holiday buffet, along with Stuffed Acorn Squash with candied ginger (and, oh yes, that squash is from my garden).

If a family member doesn't want to contribute a dish per se, then Christmas cookies are an option: gingerbread, sugar cookies, or my favorite: biscochitos.

My Latin roots come out and I amaze all my Southern family members.

4. Keep the Tree Alive

Some people require a Christmas tree. I get that. Instead of heading to the nearest tree lot with only cut trees, why not check into live trees?

A tree with a burlap bag protecting its root ball will be able to live out its life helping to balance the planet by taking in carbon dioxide and giving off life-giving oxygen.

After the holidays, our family can plant the tree—as soon as the soil isn't frozen. The tree will have the long life it deserves, too.

If you don't want to go that route, there's always the option of the dead tree.

It's not as morbid as it sounds! You take branches, spray paint in Christmas colors, like antique gold, and then decorate when dry!

5. Reuse or Make Decorations

As far as decorating the tree, we either re-use all of our old ornaments or make new ones.

The tree looks beautiful and very family-friendly. (I guess it's time to get out the old popcorn popper. Last year's garland got eaten!) We won't buy bows or wreaths or stockings.

Instead, we will decorate with a small rosemary bush that will continually release a tantalizing scent.

Each family member will bring a poinsettia to the host's house and use those as the beautiful Christmas flowers that they are. Of course, the race is on to see just how long they will survive after the holidays (but perhaps a topic for another hub!).

Next year, I may try making the gingerbread house from scratch.  But for now, the "Everything Included" package will make things easier.  I plan on recycling and/or reusing the cool box.

Next year, I may try making the gingerbread house from scratch. But for now, the "Everything Included" package will make things easier. I plan on recycling and/or reusing the cool box.

6. Write Some Poetry

This is a new one.

But, in place of the worn-out Christmas tunes, we will have a Christmas poetry slam following dinner.

Each family member's assignment is to find or write a poem related to Christmas or Winter or Family.

Then, we will light lots of candles, dim the lights, and enjoy hearing poetry readings.

7. Keeping Traditions Such as Making a Gingerbread House

The fun won't be over, yet. I admit that I will have bought a few things so far for this holiday, and a Gingerbread House Kit is no exception.

What I love about this, though, is the chance for all family members to get together, get sticky, cooperate and help each other create something that they can be proud of...well, hopefully anyway.

But the inspiration for this comes from the National Gingerbread Competition that takes place every year near where we live.

As we build the gingerbread house, we try to keep from eating all the candy, but even if we do, the process is so fun and time well-spent working with family.

The Most Important Thing Is Time Spent With Family and Friends

The next day, we will get to feast on leftover food, Christmas cookies, and gingerbread house pieces.

Each family member will get to take their poinsettia to their respective houses and walk away knowing that the planet is no worse (or not much worse, anyway) for having celebrated a joyous occasion.

That is my Green Christmas. Perhaps others out there will have one, too.

© 2011 Cynthia Calhoun


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 16, 2013:

Nita - hear, hear. :) I'm right there with you. I couldn't agree more. I also hope you have a great weekend. :)

Nita on August 13, 2013:

I don't even want to think about education and how poor how sesytm is over here.We use to be at the top of the list and now we are at the bottom. Yes, our University sesytms are great.However, we too have a problem with exchange students competing with American citizens to get in the top schools.It doesn't seem to matter if the students are equal in every measure either. The foreign student is more likely to get in.Our public school sesytm, K-through 12 is a disaster. If we don't do something here we are soon going to be a third world country, due to our own stupidity and inability to make education the top priority!!That's my rant for today!Happy weekend ECL,Jackie:-)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 10, 2013:

Julia - yes! Thank you for your thoughts. All these issues are related for sure. :) I'm actually a language (Spanish) teacher, so your comment definitely captures my sentiments. :)

Julia on August 09, 2013:

I found this post very interesting and the litlte essay charming. I always admire anyone who tries to conquer a second language. I know that your post isn\'t about that but really about these dreadful times when money isn\'t stretching not nearly as far enough as it should. We all have people from the far flung corners of the earth in our countries which in education alone is heaving at the seams and I always think it is right to encourage this. It is a sad argument but it is important for every country in the land to be familiar with every other country. Their people, customs, religions, hopes and dreams but for a few ot the reasons. We need to do this to achieve a really peaceful world because above everything else we need to build up tolerance. It is so easy and say no to foreigners having and enjoying our education system, health system and so on and so forth. This is perhaps a luxury thought that none of us can afford to have for we must make our planet peaceful and safe and work in harmony to make every life fulfiled, happy and content. It also helps us to conquer the major problems of the world: disease, poverty and global warming. Only then can our children and our children\'s children be assured of a good and healthy life.I think there should be another way though - perhaps there should be a world fund for education where all countries contribute and funds are made available to enhance all childrens needs. Countries get together to try to obtain peace perhaps it is now time to add education to peace.I hope you have a lovely Sunday ... we have had snow here and have been told the weather is going to remain terribly cold for the next two weeks or more. It seems so dreadfully early for Winter to be here ... it is quite a while until Christmas yet.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 19, 2012:

B.Leekley - these are FABULOUS suggestions! I love them and if I get a chance, I will say up in the hub itself to be sure to read these comments, especially yours! Thank you!

Ruby H Rose - thank you so much! I appreciate your feedback. :)

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on December 18, 2012:

Very special. A wonderful hub for the holidays, thanks.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 18, 2012:

I didn't look to see if someone already mentioned this, but another sort of green gift is a service gift, like:

* I will care for your children for up to 5 hours by arrangement;

* I will detail clean your car once by arrangement;

* I will prepare for the two of you a gourmet Thai dinner when mutually convenient;

* When you bring your bicycle outdoors in the spring, I will give it a tune-up.;

* I will take you on one day-long berry picking / mushroom hunting excursion in season.

Such gifts give pleasure twice, when promised and when done.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 18, 2012:

GC - Happiest and greenest of holidays to you! I was just sitting here making a mental list of what handmade goodies I still need to make, hehe.

Terrye - ha! YOU are #awesomesauce! :D You are SO SWEET to share, too. :)

Tammy - allz I gotz to say is great minds think alike. Hehe. You're awesomesauce!

Tammy from North Carolina on December 18, 2012:

Great green ideas! I am halfway there by making homeade gifts. :)

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on December 17, 2012:

CC, this is #awesomesauce so I'm sharing it all over. :)

Anna from New York, NY on December 17, 2012:

I love your suggestion of setting the criteria of gifts being handmade, recycled or reused. I really hope to incorporate that criteria into my gift giving going forward. Thanks and the greenest holidays to you!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 17, 2012:

B. Leekley - thank you! I appreciate the shares so much! Have a wonderful holiday!

Bill - hehe, this was one I wrote about a year ago. :) But yes, you ARE a responsible citizen. And I admire you - you're a gem and a gift. :) Merry Christmas, BB.

SidKemp - LOVELY suggestions! I love the Arbor Day Foundation and Heifer International. Those are perfect ideas. :) I LOVE TO SING! I'll do that, too. :) Merry Christmas!

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on December 17, 2012:

Awesome! I'd like to suggest 3 more: 1) For the person who has everything, give a donation to a sustainable charity in the person's name. The Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree in anyone's name; heifer will give livestock to a family that needs it in the name of your beloved friend. 2) Sing! We can all do it!

For those who want to learn more about Going Green, I've got a series of hubs that will keep you busy going green all year! That's my HubPages present! Merry Christmas!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 17, 2012:

This one never came up on my email; luckily I saw it on the feed.

Great concept Cyndi and of course, we already do this because, well, we like to think of ourselves as responsible citizens. :)

Great info my friend.

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 17, 2012:

All good suggestions. Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 17, 2012:

Kelley - thank you! I love doing the gingerbread house and the poetry stuff. We're going to do that this year again. :) I appreciate your feedback.

Savingkathy - Thank you! I love the scent of the rosemary tree especially! Hehe. Thanks again!

Kathy Sima from Ontario, Canada on December 17, 2012:

I love your ideas for a green Christmas without the red. It sounds lovely - and smart!

kelleyward on December 17, 2012:

Love the ideas Cyndi! We always do the gingerbread house but maybe this year we will do this together Christmas Morning! I'm happy that we have significantly reduced the amount of money we spend on Christmas. It makes the holiday more special and less stressed. Thanks for the ideas. Poetry is a great option as well! Voted up and shared!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 10, 2012:

Thanks, alocsin. Need to go over and check your hub today. Been out all day. Thanks for the votes!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 10, 2012:

I love the title, though I wish I'd found this hub last Christmas to try out some of the suggestions. Voting this Up and Useful.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 26, 2011:

Thanks, mljdgulley. We have a little "garden" of live trees in the yard. This year we went with the rosemary tree. Now, the challenge will be to keep it alive. :)

mljdgulley354 on December 26, 2011:

Once again great ideas. My brother has been doing the live Christmas tree for years. My husband is allergic to pine and cedar trees so we rely on our artificial tree.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 24, 2011:

Awww...hmmm...maybe I'll find a way to have a "handmade scarves" contest of some sorts, Claudia. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Claudia Tello from Mexico on December 24, 2011:

I completely support your Green Christmas initiative, very good Hub voted it up and useful.

I am not a Scrooge either but sometimes Christmas is too focused on the gifts for my taste. I have been using a tree from my garden for the last couple of years and it always looks lovely all dressed up. I haven't been able to recycle my Christmas flowers because like you say, they never survive.

I wish I could get one of your handmade scarves ;)

Feliz Navidad!!!!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 18, 2011:

GoodLady - if you find a great poem for a Christmas read, let me know! :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 18, 2011:

That Grrl...hehehe...yes, I've learned being 'open minded' is the way to go. Just let it happen, right? :)

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on December 17, 2011:

Good luck with all your plans. They don't always turn out just as you expected but your ideas are good.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on December 17, 2011:

Yes! Love Christmas too and really really love what can be so green about it.

Love many of your suggestions and really like the 'poems' idea. I think I'll do that the next time I manage to get the family together for Christmas. Doesn't take much to get our lot to crack up!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on December 11, 2011:

Thank you, Esmeowl12. I hear you about traditions. I love Christmas traditions. :) I love being green, I'm definitely trying to change, slowly but surely. :)

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on December 11, 2011:

I am a very traditional person, particularly at Christmas. However, I just love your ideas. Going green at any time of year is important. Voted up and useful.

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