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Holiday Debrief: So How Green Were the Holidays?

Written by Green Mama

The holidays can certainly be a busy, stressful time, a time when all around us waste goes up and conservation goes down. I admit that holidays throw me for a loop; I can get easily overwhelmed and let best practices slip. A month later, I have finally caught my breath! Below is a quick assessment of how I did this year during the holidays — What I did well and not so well. How did you do? What will you try to change next year? (Remind me to look back at this next November!)

Top 5 Things I Did Right (i.e. Green) This Holiday Season

Santa goes tag-sale-ing: My son’s gifts included a secondhand stroller and kitchen (plus a new water bottle “like Mommy!”)

1.     Giving: Our son was over the moon about his two big gifts — a wooden kitchen and a baby stroller — both of which Santa acquired at a tag sale last August. For my son’s teachers, we candied organic almonds and packaged them in reused (and reusable) decorative tins. For a close friend, I bought a gift certificate at an upscale local consignment store.

2.     Wrapping: We wrapped everything in reused or reusable materials, including cloth, empty cereal boxes, pillowcases, and decorated bags/boxes, old wrapping paper, and re-used ribbons seeing their nth Christmases.

3.     Receiving: We convinced grandma to give my son about half the number of gifts she gave him last year (yay!) and requested from grandpa a stainless steel water bottle and dish set — both of which my son adores.

4.     Cleaning Up: I meticulously separated out every piece of shrink wrap (recyclable with grocery bags), paper & cardboard wrappers (went right to my son for drawing), and reusable material before putting anything in the garbage. (After a chaotic Christmas morning, it was rather soothing to drink a cup of tea and smooth old tissue paper into neat piles for next year.)

5.     Swapping: A few weeks after the holidays ended, I hosted a swap meet. Friends cleaned house and showed up to trade no-longer-needed clothes, children’s stuff, and housewares. (Think tag sale, but everything is free!) All leftovers were donated to charity.

Resource in Progress

  • See greenHaven’s newest page Buying Greener and help us build a list of sources for locally made, organic, fair trade, or otherwise greener gifts in our area.

Top 5 Things I Want to Change Next Year

1.     Better Buying: While I purchased a number of things locally this year, I still depended way too much on ultra-convenient two-day shipping. Ugh, the size of those boxes!

MY GOAL: Next year everything I give for Christmas will either be made locally (including home-made by me) or will be a non-tangible/non-shipped (a gift card, a charitable donation, a coupon for babysitting, etc.).

2.     Holiday Cards: I love sending them; I love receiving them. But is this use or waste? We can definitely reduce our impact in this area.

MY GOAL: Next year, I will send fewer cards by at least half. (People we see regularly will probably get e-cards — hey, maybe those will actually be on time!) With the savings, we’ll print cards on recycled and recyclable paper instead of photo stock (we keep our cards, but maybe others toss them?). I think I’m also going to follow a friend’s lead: send holiday postcards this year instead of card in envelopes. The postcards had photos on the front, and messages and addresses on the back. The photo still looked great on the mantel, but they saved all those envelopes (and some $ on postage, too). I think we’ll give that a try next year, too.

3.     Lights: We’ve been using the same decorative lights for years and we are meticulous about running them for only a few hours each evening for a few weeks. (Anyone got tips on hinting to the neighbors that no one sees their illuminated reindeer at 3am?) The lights do absolutely help my mood on days when it’s pitch black out before my son’s nap is over. But we are still using too much energy. I need to research who makes the best LEDs and maybe scoop some up on sale out of season.

Part of my collection of reusable Christmas wrapping, including a holiday-themed tissue box circa 2003.

MY GOAL: I will replace two strings of holiday lights with LEDs each year for the next three years.

4.     Cleaner Eatin’: I really get a low score for food over the holidays. At celebrations, I indulged in plenty of junk — chips, desserts, and drinks full of chemicals — just because it was in front of me and I was hungry. I even found myself giving in to my son about what ended up on his plate (e.g. the cupcake with the fluorescent frosting) because I was tired and it was easier. Usually I am up to the food challenge, but during the holidays, I lost my resolve a bit.

MY GOAL: I will stick to my guns next year when it comes to how my family eats. I will arrive at celebrations fed and rested, and I will bring with me a healthy, delicious food contribution that, if all else fails, I will eat all of  it (just kidding).

5.     Okay, so I don’t really have a fifth major category to tackle—everything else either fits in one of the above or a little off-topic for greenHaven (e.g. argue less with relatives). So I’ll just say this: I know that to be successful with my goals during the next holiday season, I will need to be better organized and less harried. That means I will need to be calm and not over-committed, with realistic expectations about what I can get done.

MY GOAL: I will slow down during the next holiday season so that I have the wherewithal to remain strong in my convictions. I could even start that now . . .

Green Mama, kidHaven’s newest contributor, is a local parent doing the best she can to raise her toddler with sustainability in mind. She first got involved with green efforts while working at a local university and found that she really enjoys learning and sharing green knowledge, especially time and money-saving tricks! She looks forward to hearing tips and ideas, from readers.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ellen K. Iyer #

    Lots of good ideas here! Reading this inspires me to look for a stainless steel lunch box dish set for our 2 yo. Musing aloud about it, my husband, born in Calcutta nostalgically remarked ” I grew up eating on stainless steel plates and cups, and I like that my son will now start doing the same.” (India recycles almost everything.)

    Also, love the idea of wrapping gifts in old cloth. Easily made pretty with excess yarn & ribbon.

    This site is going to be a lot of fun to check in on!


    February 18, 2012
  2. greenHaven #

    Thanks, Ellen! If you are buying stainless steel containers, be aware that some are air/liquid tight, but others (they will say so) are not. We use both–the latter are fine for apple chunks or crackers or hummus sandwiches. Haven’t actually seen a s.s. lunch box set–wonder if you could create your own . . . –G.M.

    February 19, 2012
  3. Hey there,Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Great Blog!! I personally loved yoboulrg ….coz we have blog on the same category (MAN STYLE). Keep up the goodwork.I have enjoyed reading your blog and thought of dropping in a word PS: I have initiated Aan idea to put ur linked my blog,maybe u want to trade link wid me??.All you need to do is to add my blog link to your blog and i’ll do the same.That way, we could have a mutual partnership and we could refer visitors toeach other’s blog.Please let me know if you would be interested

    December 12, 2015

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