Is Green the Color of Your Christmas This Year?
Many people associate the color green with Christmas and rightfully so—from the holly to the trees to the lights, toys and sugar cookies, green is everywhere – along with the whole ‘lotta green that goes right out of our pocket books.
But did you know that green can take on a whole new look this Christmas? The type of green that looks out for our environment and our health in the choices we make with our families and children for this holiday season.
I mentioned holly and trees. There is a lot of controversy as of late as which is better for us and our environment; to purchase an artificial tree and reuse it year after year or to cut a tree and use it once. For many people, the initial reaction is to purchase artificial and reuse it—that has to be greener, right? Not necessarily. It is important to look at several things. The average artificial tree is only designed to last 4-6 years and so many, many of them end up in landfills, taking up space and slowly releasing many of the chemicals they were produced with into the atmosphere and ground. Artificial trees are often made from PVC, a dioxin, which is very harmful. And in the cheaper trees, lead is used in the PVC in some cases, and as the tree ages, this becomes airborne. In addition, we need to consider where that artificial tree came from. At least 85% of fake trees come from Asia, which also requires a huge amount of fuel consumption to bring them to the US. On the flip side, tree farms operate in all 50 states in the US. The majority of trees come from the Pacific Northwest and the Northeastern US, but they have travelled far shorter distances to arrive at your local tree lot. There are also those who argue we need to let trees ‘grow’ as they help our atmosphere. And while this is true that our forests do indeed benefit our atmosphere, the reality is the percentage of families marching off into the wilderness to chop down a wild Christmas tree is decreasing annually and the effect they have on our atmospheric conditions is negligible. Those grown on tree farms grow in space that would otherwise be used for growing other crops, not wild trees, so the argument to only use artificial trees for that reason falls flat. Not to mention that having a living plant in your home reduces your families toxic exposure because plants help reduce airborne toxins. Finally, a real tree can easily be turned into mulch via your local Boy Scout troop and other organizations for a small fee.
How about lighting up that tree? LED lights, on the outset, seem expensive. But when you look at the fact that they can last up to 10 times longer than incandescent Christmas lights and are 80 percent more efficient, thus consuming less energy, they begin to look much cheaper. And LED lights do not get as hot as traditional lights, therefore prolonging the life of your real tree. That green choice is an easy one. And when big box retailers are offering $5 off each set of LED lights when you bring in a string of incandescent, it is even easier.
What about the toys and gifts? How can we be a little greener with those? First consider where your toy or gift is coming from: Consider shopping from local holiday bazaars, in the warmer climates at Winter Farmers Markets and from retailers specializing in locally made merchandise. Anytime you can reduce the number of miles a product has to travel to market, you are reducing the impact on our environment. Additionally, you will often find that those who take the time to handcraft an item are often invested in what that item is made from and use less toxic materials or even locally source their raw materials whenever possible. If you are purchasing toys, consider retailers that specialize in green products so that the materials used to make those toys are less likely to be toxic to your children. Hard woods, non toxic finishes, organic cloth…all these things are worth considering for an item your child will handle, hug, kiss, suck on and often sleep with. Also consider fewer electronic toys. Electronics emit electromagnetic fields (EMF) and these are associated more and more with cancers, neurological and other health issues. Reducing our families’ exposure to EMF whenever possible is always wise.
Finally the cookies and the food. Let’s face it, eating all those goodies is a favorite part of Christmas for nearly everyone. But excess refined sugars, artificial flavors, colors and other ingredients in many of these foods are really, really bad for us. So it is worth carefully considering what is going into your body and that of your family. Moderation rather than excess, natural over artificial and seasonal organic foods rather than traditionally grown can have a big impact on both your immediate and long-term health.
Green is a beautiful holiday color and hopefully these ideas can help you bring a little more ‘green’ into your Christmas season.