As a reporter, I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Often their perspectives can get me thinking about my own views and habits. That happened this month when I talked to local folks about the ways they are making sure their holiday celebrations aren’t an environmental burden on the Earth.
I talked to people who are buying outdoor lights powered by the Sun, people who are making their own wrapping paper, even people who are giving away renewable energy credits as gifts. Here is a <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090341/1066″ target=”_blank”>link to the main story</a> on making your holiday “Green.” Here is a <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090338/1066″ target=”_blank”>link to a sidebar full of tips</a>. (My favorite: Save this year’s holiday cards to make tags for next year’s presents.) And <a href=”http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071209/BUSINESS01/712090340/1066″ target=”_blank”>here is a link</a> to a story on the lead risks of plastic holiday decor, such as lights, and the popularity of real Christmas trees among the environmentally savvy.
Doing this package made me think a little guiltily about my own environmental footprint during the holidays. I get a lot of catalogs. A LOT. I tend to burn my Christmas tree lights all day long when I’m home. Worst of all: I am a glutton when it comes to giving presents and wrapping them in fancy paper. This photo from last year’s Christmas kind of tells the whole story of my environmentally un-friendly habits:
And yet, if you asked me about other ways I try and do my part, I’d point to my (mostly) diligent recycling, my effort to turn off lights when I’m not in the room, my habit of combining errands in one trip, etc. I think the holidays can make us all go nuts in the consumption department. Last year was Pumpkin’s second Christmas Ã¢â‚¬â€ and the first she really was able to participate in by unwrapping her own gifts, eating cookies, etc. So, I went crazy. So crazy, in fact, that we were still unwrapping after dinner. That’s how long it took to get through the presents!
I was inspired this year to change some of my ways by the stories I heard from local parents. We bought some Philips outdoor lights with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. They use just a tiny fraction of the electricity of incandescent bulbs. I bought some environmentally friendly gifts. I shopped locally when I could. Next year, with more time to plan, we’ll do more. I love the Pratt family’s wrapping solution. Randy Pratt, who runs the Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights, told me the family shops after the holiday for discount Christmas fabric and makes their own long-lasting gift bags. What a great idea!
I was also inspired by Laura Barkat of Ossining. Here, at right, is some really cute homemade holiday paper created last year by her girls, who are now 10 and 8. Laura gives the girls just three gifts between the two of them, one shared and one each. Last year, the eldest mended her younger sister’s favorite pajamas as a holiday gift. “She saw that her sister was about to lose her favorite pajamas. They were unwearable. She put patches on the knees and mended them and there they were Christmas morning,” Laura told me. When I asked Laura to sum up her feelings on the topic, she sent me an e-mail. Here is what she wrote:
“First, I wanted to say that being green is sometimes framed as a list of do’s and don’ts. But in our family it’s more about restoring our lives and the life of our community and world. By ‘restoring,’ I mean ‘refilling’ or ‘restocking.’ So, being green is about what we add to our lives that makes them more precious and less full of negative impact. On this note, being green is also about ‘re-storying’ our lives. Picking a different life narrative than the Climb to Success, finding a different identity or character than Consumer. We choose, instead, to weave a narrative of Love, to discover and encourage our ingenuity and intense potential for human creativity. On a practical level, this means we focus on meaningful ritual, tradition, sharing, and memory-making, rather than on ‘stuff’ (the consuming of stuff, the provision of stuff by others, and the pursuit of stuff as a ‘right’ to the exclusion of the health of family, community and environment). This is a year-round goal, to change our focus from buying stuff to ritual, but at Christmas it takes a particular shape.”
Like Laura, I feel it’s important for my holiday habits to reflect our own values. And I’ll admit my habits need a bit of a makeover. But I plan to do it because I want Pumpkin to share in the awe and wonder of the holiday’s true message rather than the message I might inadvertently send by spoiling her with too many presents and not eliminating my own wasteful ways. What do the rest of you parents think? Are you feeling the urge to go “Green” this holiday? What lessons do you try and teach your kids about the environment through your habits Ã¢â‚¬â€ in December and all year long?