Christmas is responsible for more waste and consumption than any other holiday. North American's trash contributions to the landfill increase by 25% during this time of year - which equates to a minimum of 25 million extra tons of garbage going to the landfill. By recognizing the incredible waste that is generated the urgency to do something becomes apparent.
A truly useful or environment friendly gift that provide some convenience or financial benefits is a better ecological choice. At the same time, you can help alleviate the guilt you might feel during this period of high consumption and travel activities. Here is a brief list of frugal and environmentally sound ideas to inspire you.
For the homeowner - A thermostat control that automatically turns the heat down at night; low flow showerhead attachment; draft cozy (placed in front of doors to prevent drafts) and tubes of caulking or weather stripping. Dimmer switches, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's) or hot water tank and hot water pipe insulation kits are also excellent ideas. Yellow CFL's are perfect for exterior lighting because they attract fewer insects. Consider making an eco-package combining some of these items for the homeowner.
For the gardener - A subscription to an organic gardening magazine or a membership to a seed organization is always an interesting gift idea. Bird, bat and butterfly houses, baths and feeders - or the patterns to build them - are a wonderful optional gift. Alternatively consider composting worm bin, gift certificate to a nursery or a membership with an environmental group.
Give Services - Rather than giving an item that must be wrapped, consider purchasing tickets to a performance, restaurant gift certificates or services such as lawn care, diaper, cleaning, music lessons, exercise or dance classes, tune-up or tire rotation services. Don't forget to look at dog walking, babysitting, and massage, spas or gyms when looking at gift certificates. All of these ideas will help you support local businesses that you believe in while giving something that the recipient can truly benefit from.
Give Food - Home preserves such as dehydrated or canned foods make excellent gifts. Those that find cooking tasks cumbersome treasure frozen meals. Snack foods and deserts are appreciated by most anyone; keep in mind that purchasing Brazil or cashew nuts supports a tropical rainforests. Baskets of healthy foods are another wonderful idea to consider - especially if it contains samples from local producers.
Books - Most of us realize the benefits of literacy and supporting local businesses. You can do both by choosing to purchase books as gifts this year. However, we can also leave a legacy with a book of our own. This could be a journal, a collection of our poetry, a family tree that you've researched or even a family recipe book. Perhaps you might consider including quotes from family members or people you admire and possibly a few favorite family photos.
Alternative gifts - A reusable coffee filter and whole organic coffee beans makes a nice gift for coffee lovers. Consider slippers and sweaters - the recipient is less likely to turn up their thermostat. Toys and games with positive environmental or education values and those that emphasize cooperation, exploration or creative thinking. If you choose to purchase electronics, consider those powered by solar or rechargeable batteries.
The Tree: Give or purchase a living tree for yourself this year (it removes carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, ozone and nitrogen oxides). A living Xmas tree can be donated to individuals with space on their land, the city, schools or parks when the season is over. Alternatively, plant it in your own yard for privacy, summer shade or soil and water erosion control.
The Photos - For holiday photo memories, avoid disposable cameras. Instead use a digital camera and load directly to your own computer and CD burner. Alternatively, use a normal camera using 36 exposure film rolls and have the pictures put on CD's at the development outlet. Choosing these options reduces chemicals, paper and waste, while you save some cash.
~ Dave Brummet: co-author of the books Trash Talk, Purple Snowflake Marketing and Towards Understanding; co-host of the Conscious Discussions radio show (http://www.brummet.ca )