Celebrate the Holidays Through Conservation

The Halloween candy stock is thinning and it’s getting darker and colder by the day.

City streetscapes are starting to sport festive lights and the skiers are eagerly looking to the mountains for snow. It can only mean that the holiday season is upon us. As we prepare to gather with friends and families, indulge and imbibe, there are a few things you can do to bring conservation home for the holidays.

In the spirit of appreciating nature, give a gift that will help a child be curious about the natural world. A trip to the zoo, a wildlife watching kit, or perhaps a tree you plant together can spark an interest in the environment for a kid. Beyond physical gifts, you could put your money towards helping the planet and others. Adopt a tiger or donate a farm animal that can provide wool, milk, eggs or more to a family.

As we decorate our homes, please consider the materials and life cycle of these temporary furnishings. Dangerous chemicals can be lurking in those festive decorations. In the recent Mind the Store Retailer Report Card, off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls and dollar store chains scored among the worst concerning effective chemical policies and safe, toxics-free products. Jose Bravo, Coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, said “Once again, dollar stores fall among the worst national retailers when it comes to protecting customers and our families from toxic chemicals–and none of them have done much to ease product safety concerns in over a year. While dollar stores continue to lag behind other retailers on toxic chemical safety, we continue to worry that our children and vulnerable populations are getting more than our share of toxic chemical exposures.” In fact, nearly half of leading North American retailers earned a failing grade for their efforts to protect customers from toxic chemicals in their products, packaging and supply chain. See if you can find or make your decorations from natural materials like fallen boughs or pine cone ornaments.

Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. Consider making gifts, giving time or service rather than giving things, recycling, and being creative with your wrapping. Anything to make a dent in the 25 million tons of garbage of extra holiday season waste. That equals about 1 million extra tons per week! If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just three presents in re-used materials like newspaper or brown paper bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

With the October release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change still fresh on the mind, there are ways to limit your impact on climate change. Mindful food and spending choices can greatly accelerate progress against climate change. Work to reduce food waste, choose local and seasonally appropriate foods, and try a holiday side dish or two without meat or dairy. I swear they won’t even notice that it’s mushroom gravy. Remember whether its food or gifts, there is power in where you choose to spend your money. Buy products locally or that are made in an environmentally friendly way. Every day, more and more companies are committing to 100% clean energy. Supporting them means you know your dollars aren’t supporting dirty fossil fuels. How about reaching for the LED holiday lights instead of conventional. They use a tenth of the amount of power and last much longer. When it comes to climate change, every single tenth of a degree of warming we can prevent will create a better future. It’s not about fixing everything all at once, it’s about doing what we can right now.

Finally, in a season that seems to have been consumed by consuming, please remember the reasons we gather in the first place. To reflect and rejoice with the people we hold dear…even if they sometimes drive us batty.