Your gift to the environment

Feature story - December 5, 2006
In many countries it's holiday season. If last-minute shopping, baking and decorating turn you into Ebenezer Scrooge, just think about the toll this season takes on the environment.

Will Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer have an energy-efficient nose this year?

But don't worry, you don't have to choose between enjoying this time ofyear and becoming an environmental stick in the mud. There are plenty ofsimple steps that you and your family can take if you are dreaming of a"green" holiday season.  To have your gingerbread cookie and eatit too, check out the 12 tips below.

1: Give a compact fluorescent light bulb or two or three as gifts. Save your friends and family money and save the planet too. Old-fashioned light bulbs waste 85% of their energy in heat and don't last long. Compact florescent bulbs these days come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. A 100% compact florescent household makes a great New Year's resolution, and a good investment in energy (and money!) savings.

2: Pull the plug on dirty presents. Electronics are popular gifts so rather than just consider the cost, check out which companies are doing more than others to make cleaner products. This year's presents shouldn't be next year's toxic waste. (Ok, we know. Sometimes we can't resist that new iPod or MacBook either, despite the fact that Apple is bottom of the barrel when it comes to toxic content and recycling policies. If you really can't wait until Apple cleans up its act to buy one, make sure you do something for the Green my Apple campaign to tell Steve Jobs that we love Apple products, but we want them to come in green. Make sure your gift recipient gets the message too!)

3: Pay for the present, not the packaging. Put some thought into the gifts you are purchasing. Avoid products that are over-packaged or made from toxic PVC plastic or from endangered trees like mahogany.

4: Travel smart. When it's time to go shopping for the perfect gift or visit relatives, try to take public transportation or carpool for trips. Every time you hop in your car or even worse a plane, you're producing greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. Even better? Shop online. You can get your loved ones gift memberships to environmental organizations, like Greenpeace.

5: Cut down on paper. Why not have fun making your own wrapping paper out of recycled paper? With a potato stamp and some water paint you can make unique wrapping paper. Cut up last years cards to make perfect recycled gift tags. Make sure your waste wrapping paper goes in the recycling. If you send holiday cards, look for a recycled content or better yet, send an e-card.

6: Be tree friendly. If a tree is traditionally part of your celebrations, a living, potted one is your best option because it can be reused next year. If you must use a cut tree, ask your local officials about tree recycling or if you can chip the tree to use as mulch in your garden.

7: Less is more. If you decorate your home with lights, think about how much energy they use. Don't forget to turn off the lights before you go to bed or go out, and use LED bulbs to save energy.

8: Go au natural. Replace those plastic, over-priced holiday decorations, with natural reuseable decorations like whitewashed branches and pine cones. They can put you in the holiday spirit just as easily as a huge, inflatable snowman can.

9:Cut down on your shopping. As a general rule the more you buy and consume the more of the planet's limited resources you are using up. Try to buy local produce to cut the travel miles your holiday essentials have clocked up.

10: Break out the china. When it comes time to party down, do so with real dishes - not disposables. Ask your friends to borrow some of their plates and glasses or rent them. Cleanup will be a little tougher, but it's worth it. If you must use disposable, look for recycled content.

11: Hang lots of mistletoe. This won't really help the environment. But more kissing has got to be good for world peace ;-)

12: Get started on those New Year's resolutions! If you've followed these 12 tips for the holiday season why not be good to the climate for the whole of 2007 by following our 12 tips for individual action on global warming?