Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday

GIPL Board member and frequent guest blogger, Susan Varlamoff offers her favorite eco-friendly tricks for the holiday season:
Make Natural Decorations: Rather than buying plastic ornaments, wreaths, and decorations shipped from overseas, make your own from pine cones, holly, seashells, river stones, and evergreen branches. Christmas tree lots often will give away branches they’ve trimmed off the bottom of trees.

Use Energy-efficient LED Lighting: If your strands of lights are older than 10 years it will be more efficient to replace them with newer, LED bulbs. They can also save you up to 90% or more on power costs and will last longer than traditional bulbs.
Support homeless shelters: Not everyone shares equally in the bounty of the earth. Tough times happen to us all but without family support, lives can be upended. Consider a donation of food, clothes, or financial support to Atlanta Mission, Gateway Center, or a faith-based charity.
Gift giving; Decrease spending, stress, and waste by having family members draw names and sticking to a ‘one gift’ rule. This allows each person to get one thoughtful and unique gift from someone. Consider buying an “experience” as a gift? Try movie  tickets, restaurant gift cards, club memberships, gift tokens. How about making gifts from renewable materials such as paper, cotton, hemp, silk, and wood? Consider gifts from the kitchen and the heart such as jellies and jams, canned tomato sauce, salsa, cookies, bread and muffins.  
Gift Shopping: Support your community and local economy by shopping small mom-and-pop stores, especially if those stores sell locally made items. Combine shopping trips, and have fun with friends by car-pooling for gifts. Buy rechargeable batteries for the many toys and appliances that require batteries.
Sustainable Wrapping Paper: Ditch the rolls of wrapping paper and avoid glossy or metallic gift wrap. Instead, check out fabric gift wrap or inexpensive brown wrapping that can be dressed up with colorful ribbon. Reuse shipping boxes, last year’s gift bags, and bows to wrap gifts rather than buying new ones.

Send E-cards – Replace snail mail cards and letters with e-cards and e-mails to save paper and mailing expense. It also will reduce your carbon footprint since it eliminates the fuel used for transporting standard mail.
Food Shopping: Choose a heritage turkey or grass-fed, organic, or natural turkey or ham when possible. Organic winter squash from your backyard, locally grown vegetables from the farmer’s market, and homemade rolls all create a sustainable, delicious, and healthy meal. Georgia is blessed with a bountiful harvest each year which includes pecans, apples, pumpkins, mushrooms, squash, root vegetables, kale, and lettuce. Turkeys, beef, chicken, and pork are also produced in Georgia. Support Georgia’s farmers by looking for the Georgia Grown logo when you shop.
Skip Disposables: Bring out the fine china, utensils, and cloth napkins to avoid using disposable dinnerware and therefore reduce waste and consumption of natural resources.

Recycle: Any non-glossy paper wrapping can be shredded for the compost or added to the recycling bins. Be sure to keep the bows and ribbons for multiple uses, as well as tissue paper, gift bags, and boxes. Also, packaging from beverages or food containers should be rinsed and recycled as well. Compost food scraps. Many communities collect Christmas trees to grind into mulch. Bring One for the Chipper, sponsored by Georgia Clean and Beautiful will take place at various locations throughout the state.
Give thanks: For our many blessings including living in a free and open society, an abundance of food cultivated by hardworking American farmers, and the freedom to worship as we choose.
Written by Susan Varlamoff, GIPL Board member, Creation Care Team leader for St. John Neumann Catholic Church and author of Sustainable Gardening for the Southeast.