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You are here: Home Leisure Arts & Culture Have a green Christmas
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17/12/2010Have a green Christmas

Have a green Christmas At a loss on what to do with unwanted gifts? Debating what to do with the now lifeless tree, and should you just settle for a fake next time? Here are some ways to get into the eco holiday spirit.

Fake Fir

“Oh toilet brush oh toilet brush, how lovely are thy bristles...” just doesn’t have quite the same holiday ring to it as the classic carol, does it? But in the 1930s the Addis Brush Company discovered that their toilet brush factory could produce a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree.

The artificial tree is now firmly entrenched in the ethos of Christmas consumerism. Generally, chopping down trees is anathema to environmentalists. And re-use leads one to assume that the once-every-six-to-ten-years purchase of a reusable tree would be hailed as heroism by those dedicated to the rescue of Earth’s arboreal reserves.

As it so happens the toilet-brush Christmas tree is produced with non-biodegradable plastic, usually in a factory far away where respect for environmental regulations and lead levels seems as plastic as the products. They often are not even used for the full 10-year lifetime purchasers are banking on.

In contrast, the real tree is 100 percent natural. When you’re done with it, you can recycle it for mulch -- many cities have Christmas tree recycling centers or organised collection. An even better option is to have a potted tree that you re-plant outside at the end of the season.

There are companies that rent or lease potted Christmas trees. Sometimes it is even possible to have the same tree each year, one that will grow with your family.

Despite the harvest and transport carbon costs, real trees have serious green credibility. One acre of douglas fir, a holiday favourite, can absorb 11,308.7 lbs of carbon dioxide. Christmas tree farmers also replace the cut trees -- if they didn’t, they would go out of business after one year.

Creative souls have found that the main functionality provided by the Christmas tree (namely, a festive centerpiece under which gifts are placed) can be replicated in a variety of materials.

Attractive displays of driftwood, cut boughs of evergreens, felted trees, cardboard creations, stacked books and light projections are all possibilities suggested by Google Images. Why not get the children involved and come up with your own alternative Christmas ‘tree’?

Christmas gift exchange: Old items only

Have you got things in your house that you don't need any more but which are still in good condition? Have you bought something on impulse only to realise later that you don't really want it? Do you want to get rid of clutter but can't get yourself to throw away stuff mercilessly?

Make your unwanted items the life of your Christmas party by holding an 'all-old items' gift exchange. This gift exchange is done best as a White Elephant or Yankee Swap.

The game is simple and guaranteed fun. Tell those joining the party to bring an item or two that is used or unused and unneeded -- the item should be something that may still be useful to someone (the item should be wrapped, preferably using old newspaper/magazine).

Each gift is labeled with a number. Participants gather around the gifts, are assigned numbers, and he/she must match the number on their card with the number on the "gift" (The one who has No. 1 gets to pick first).

The swapping options surfaces when No. 2 chooses to either grab a gift from the lot or "steal" the first person's gift. If the gift is "stolen" from the No. 1 person, the No. 1 can then take a new gift and open it. This process goes on until all gifts are opened.

There are many variations to this game but it is best to set a limit to the number of times a gift can be "stolen". The "stealing" of gifts definitely adds excitement to the game and helps ensure that the one who is "stealing" really wants the gift. Everything is done in the spirit of fun!


Post Christmas:
Clueless on where to stash that ugly sweater grandma gave you? Charities are the way to go for unwanted and ill-fitting gifts.

Don't forget to recyle wrapping paper and greeting cards. Christmas cards can also be cut up to use as pretty gift tags next year. Just use a standard hole punch to make a hole in the corner and add a loop of gift ribbon or yarn.


Easy ways to be "bill" conscious:

Don't forget to turn off your fairy lights
Fifteen percent of household electricity is wasted by leaving TVs and other appliances on standby. In general, lighting accounts for 15 percent of household electricity, and 100-string Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate 60 balloons.

Coziness with candles and more
Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residues so neither do your health or the environment any good. Soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based candles are better because they biodegrade, are smoke-free, and so more eco-friendly.

Warm up with liquids
Hot water bottles are another comforting way to heat up blankets and cozy snuggle spots for hours during the day and night. Also, instead of blasting the heat after being in the snow, try sipping teas, cocoa, mulled wine and other hot drinks that warm from the inside.

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