Celebrating Christmas in a Warming Planet

Pastor Craig’s sermon on November 17, generated a specific response from me. The result is this article I am offering to encourage us all to prepare for the Christmas season in ways that are mindful of how we can all do our part to lessen our ecological/carbon footprints during the Christmas season.

We all associate the celebration with a lot of things and activities. The idea is not to totally deprive ourselves of their enjoyment but to alter the way we use them so we can all celebrate Christmas while at the same time remaining faithful to our God-given mandate to be stewards of Earth, our common home. Here are some practical suggestions collated from my own practice and observations and with the help of various online sustainability sources. Please feel free to add your own.

Christmas Lights:

* If you must have lights, do lessen the number of lights used indoor and outdoors.

* Use energy efficient bulbs like LEDs or solar powered lights. They consume less energy and are more sustainable.

* Turn off the lights before going to bed; or, put Christmas lights on a timer.

* Disconnect all lights and decorations when you’re not home.

Christmas Trees:

* Choose cut or live trees. They sequester carbon. They also help growers.

* Buy tree that is grown locally. Again, they help local growers and the tree does not have to

incur a huge carbon footprint by travelling so far from its source to your home.

* At the end of the season, plant the live Christmas tree and use again until you can’t get it into the house anymore. Live trees are usually locally grown and sold; they save on transportation costs and lessen air pollution.

* After the Christmas season, recycle the cut tree. It can be made into mulch or compost. Or, it can be sent back into the land where they can help grow other trees and plants.

* If you already have an artificial tree, use it for as long as possible. They are of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping.

Christmas gifts:

* Get creative. Not all gifts have to be store-bought.

* Make home-made Christmas cards from prior years’ cards.

* Practice re-gifting. Just make sure you are not re-gifting it to the person who gave it to you in the first place.

* Buy smart. Buy green. Buy local.

* Get battery-free gifts. Once discarded, batteries are an environmental hazard. They are toxic. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually.

Christmas Shopping: 

* As at other times of the year, bring recyclable bags when you shop.

* Make a list.

* Practice trip chaining. That is, group errands and other activities into one trip instead of returning home in between each one. The more errands grouped together, the more vehicle trips saved and the lesser your carbon footprints.

Christmas Gifts Wrapping:

* Find alternatives to wrapping paper such as reused paper or fabric gift bags.  In the US, the annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons.

* Use environmentally friendly wrapping paper. Choose wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp, or paper using recycled content.

* Avoid glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper. It is difficult to recycle and it has no value for use as mulch since there are heavy metals used in the foil paper. Foil gift wrap is also harder to reuse, since it wrinkles and creases easily when the gift is being unwrapped.

* Use tape sparingly, or not at all. By not using tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse.

* Save any special gift wrap, ribbons, and bows for future use. When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper for reuse; it can often be cut down for smaller presents.

* Reuse, re-purpose or recycle gift packing materials and gift wrap where possible.

Christmas Food:

* Buying organic from local farmers can slash about 5% in terms of emissions but also help support jobs and encourage a more sustainable food system.

* Re-think your choice of meat to serve. Switch to poultry. Buy less.

* Serve smaller portions. Halve the standard portion, and you’ll cut your environmental impact while still festively indulging. Get only what you need.

* Compost.

Christmas travel:

* Give serious thought to staycations …

* If you must hit the road or fly, plan …. NOW. It will give you more time to reflect on how to travel in a more sustainable manner.

* Turn the thermostat down before you leave the house.

A Blessed Christmas to us all!

–Rev. MaAn