Earth Friendly Holiday Hints

This article was written by Susan Francis, a friend and colleague of Green Home Experts.  Susan’s business, Harmonious Places, is dedicated to giving customers a clutter-free, peaceful and comfortable life.  Thanks, Susan, for these gready holiday tips!

Earth Friendly Holiday Hints That Can Save YOU Time and Money Too!

Most of us have come to think automatically about what and how we, wrap, buy, decorate and dine during the holiday season.  Yet… it’s the second decade of a new millennium… and now we all have new needs.  Those often include the pressing desire for more time, more support, more energy, more health, more love!  And we hope for a healthy planet, now and for years to come, like we never had to before.

The good news is that these new needs can all come together harmoniously… if we just look at things a big differently.  To use the famous Einstein quote:  the thinking that got us into this situation is not the thinking that will get us out.  Or, to use the design of Natural Step Framework (a system for defining what is sustainable living), we need to think about what will make us sustainable—on a personal and planetary level—and then think back from that place, rather than forward from where we were.  The NSF also asks us to think about what a product TAKES from the EARTH, what is MADE of, and then how it ends up as WASTE—and how it addressed human needs in the meanwhile.  In other words, when you buy something, you could ask:  who made this?  What is it made of?  How far did it travel to get here, and how did it travel?  How will it be used here, and for how long?  Where will it go when it is no longer used?  How will its waste affect the earth?

Sound confusing?  Its really not.  Here are actual examples of this way of thinking that will also help your personal levels of sustainability (energy, time, health, money) as well as those of the planet in the context of the holiday season.  We’ll start with everyone’s favorite topic:


1)      Consider giving less “stuff”.  Many of us have an awful lot of “stuff” already—and it often does not full what we really need.  When you consider other options, you support yourself and the earth, and provide a role model for others to do the same.

2)      So… ask yourself what you REALLY need.  And then, what do your friends and family REALLY need?  Who ever said we have to give stuff?!?!  Remember—most of us need time, energy and various forms of support.  Here are some suggestions that may answer these questions

  • Give of yourself, and in ways that you will get back!  Offer to help your friends put their holiday decorations away and clear a closet or attic (yikes!) while chatting and sipping tea some cold weekend in January.  Offer to baby-sit for them on a Sat. so they can have a date night (always a favorite).  Or offer to provide a dinner and game night at your house some evening that they have to work late.
  • Give a green gift (see the great coupons inside!)—consider something locally produced. organic, energy (and thus money) saving, non-toxic, etc.
  • Purchase needed services rather than stuff—gift certificates for a massage, yoga or art class, a clutter clearing or green home consult! (also–  see those coupons!!)
  • Give a gift that will give to us all.  Buy someone a membership to a local, national or international organization (such as Chicago Wilderness, The Sierra Club or World Wildlife Funds) that they would support.  Most of these organizations offer a free gift. a beautiful, informative newsletter, and discounts on eco-friendly travel to local and exotic destinations with a membership—and we all get the gift of their incredible work that sustains us all.  Or consider groups like the Heifer Foundation, which will allow you to adopt a long distance critter such as a llama, goat or honey bee hive to help a family live sustain develop their own food and income, allowing them undreamed of abundance in a sustainable fashion.
  • If you feel you MUST give STUFF, even after all this, please do this one simple thing:  ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED!  Or, as the late, great Fats Waller musically suggested:  “Find out what they like, and how they like it, and let ‘em have it just that way…”  Okay.  Maybe he was thinking more along the lines of Valentine’s Day than Christmas—but you know what we mean.  Don’t let your gift be one that gathers dust bunnies—or ends in the dustbin!  Then do you best to them get that STUFF, from a local or green or recycled product.

Final thoughts on gift giving:  *  Combine shopping trips with other trips you have planned, and create a sensible map to save mileage and time.  * Bring your own bags when you shop (not just to the grocery store!).  * Reduce the number of gifts needed by drawing names from a hat or choosing gift partner.  * buy rechargeable batteries and a charger to go with any battery-drive product; LED or CFL lights for holiday or lighting fixtures, and or smart-power strips to save energy for computer or entertainment products.

Holiday Decorating

1)      Whether it’s Solstice, Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza, it is the season to celebrate light!  If, while doing so, you are using candles, please, for the planet and your own indoor air quality, use candles made of beeswax or soy—or consider the new flameless candles lit with LEDs (and rechargeable batteries).

2)      If you buy a tree for Christmas, get one that supports sustainable farming (many do—just ask the lot).  You can also purchase on in a container that can be planted in your yard in the spring (some can live in their containers for years, and be taken in and out as the seasons change)  After the holidays, live trees can be collected, or shredded yourself and used to mulch your garden.

3)     If you need an artificial tree for allergy reasons, please buy one that can last for years, and if possible one made sustainably (e.g., with needles made from recycled plastic, with energy efficient lighting, etc.).

4)     Avoid the use of plastic and disposable but not degradable decorations wherever possible.  Instead, choose ornaments made from glass, ceramic, wood or paper and from sustainable sources.  Better yet, get family and friends together to string your own garlands or make ornaments from item such as popcorn, cranberries and pinecones.  This is a creative yet soothing and meditative activity that we don’t take time for in our lives anymore and can be FUN!  As well as produce really lovely decorations.  After the holidays, these items can be used to feed wildlife or a compost pile.

5)     Turn off indoor and outdoor decorative lights during off hours—no need to leave on overnight or day!  Prime visibility hours are from 6:00-10:00PM

That’s Entertainment!

1)      Consider using real plates and cups for your holiday entertaining, even at the office.  Invite everyone to help wash!  If you have to buy disposable party ware,  please use paper, ideally recycled paper products, or recycled plastic products.  Above, avoid Styrofoam!  It never, and we do mean never) decomposes, and the waste is highly toxic if burned incinerators.

2)      Consider buying local and/or organic food for treats!  At the least, buy fresh ingredients and prepare it yourself—this will make it healthier (less salt and additives than pre-prepared foods), less expensive and better for the earth.  Sometimes organic food is a bit more expensive, but even some will help—and it saves the hidden costs that accompany industry produced foods (massive herbicide and pesticide use, and farming using petrochemicals that ruin river, steams and water tables).

Green the Greetings of the Season!

1)      Surrender to the benefits of the electronic age and emails those Christmas cards.  Many sites create lovely, moving cares with sound and some environmental organizations offer cards with scenes from national parks.  There are also sites you can visit that will contribute money to conservation efforts in return for mailing—check out this EXCELLENT site:– if you send two cards through them they will contribute to environmental organizations—see the site for more free offers that make a difference!

2)      There are many lovely holiday postcards available (some on recycled paper), saving time, paper and postage-.    Or buy cards on recycled paper—many of them benefits organizations such as UNICEF.

3)     Recycle the cards that you receive!  Here is an incredible program:  If you cut off the fronts and mail them to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, Recycled Card Program, 100 St. Jude’s Street, they get reused and the money supports abused/neglected and abandoned children.  You can also buy cards from them—the kids and volunteers make new cards, giving the children skills and income and teach the value of going green, while producing green cards!


1)      In my house, Santa ENVER wrapped HIS gifts.  We were all thrilled to see them laid out under the tree on Christmas morning (saving the elves, and us, time and trees).

2)      Decorative gift bags and boxes (especially those made from recycled paper) tied with ribbon can be used over and over again.

3)     A plain brown box with a straw ribbon and a spring of holly makes sleek, elegant gift.

4)     If you must wrap, buy recycled papers, and open the gifts carefully—you can have a contest (with another gift as prize) for those who best preserve the paper.  Reuse it next year!


IF we all do at least a few of these things, Santa, Chanukah Harry and Mother Earth will put us on their “nice”, not “naughty” lists (Yes.  They all have one).

And we will all get the greatest gift in return—a joyous, sustainable earth for one and all!!  Happy holidays to all… and go enjoy these good green coupons!


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Eco Friendly said,

    At Burt s Bees, they believe the sustainable business practices are always the best practices. Eco Friendly

  2. 2

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by greenwerks: Earth Friendly Holiday Hints: This article was written by Susan Francis, a friend and colleague of Green Home Exper…

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