Six steps towards a sustainable holiday season (and life beyond)

Today's blog post comes to us from our very own resident green guru, Peg Kamens. She offers up some great suggestions on how to be green this holiday season: 

Who doesn’t hate holiday lists – just more stuff to complicate your already hectic life, right? But this is probably the time of year you are expending a fair amount of energy – your own personal time, and the carbon-emitting type. The New Year is also a time for personal renewal and rededication – we resolve to work out regularly, cook at home more often, try harder to reason with our hormonal teenager.

So why not make some resolutions that will have an impact not only on your life and pocketbook (and maybe that troublesome adolescent), but on your community and the planet as well? Think of this as a list to turn your holiday blues in a greener direction.

1. You don’t need to buy lots of holiday gifts – I am not particularly crafty, but I do lots of baking and preserving. My husband takes great photos. I’ve a friend who exchanges funny, home-made Christmas decorations with her family each year. Your gifts are only a demonstration that you care for your chosen circle. Those you love are as happy to enjoy a good cookie, or laugh at a crazy photo, as they are to get a plastic trinket made by underage workers from China. Okay, maybe that’s an understatement.

2. Buy locally – if you can’t make all your own gifts to give, buy what you can locally. It’s great if your town has a local crafts fair so you can support your neighbors. Or look for a locally-owned store, rather than a chain or Amazon. You’ll keep more money in your community, support local artists and dedicate less of your gift-giving dollars to shipping items around the globe. And maybe you’ll even have a thriving downtown when you go shopping again next year.

3. Engage your children in holiday projects – a friend of mine has a holiday tradition of creating gingerbread houses – or even villages – with her sons. Sometimes their vision is successful – the house hangs together, and more frosting ends up between the gingerbread than on their clothes – and sometimes not. But creating the project is hours of time spent together, and laughs and memories later. Seems like time well spent.

4. Tailor your holiday to your needs – our family is always confused around the holiday, since we are not religious and can find lots to like in any of the seasonal celebrations – Solstice, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa. We settled on celebrating any 8 nights we are all together during the holiday season. There are 5 of us, so each has a special night when s/he shares gifts with the rest of the family, and gets to bask in their appreciation. One night we get a family gift – something we all can share. One night we decide on a gift to give our community – could be volunteering or making a donation to a favored cause. And one night is for friends – maybe invite them to a special meal. We don’t always make it through all 8 nights, but giving is as celebrated as getting, and that’s the point for us.

5. Challenge yourself to make holiday meals from locally grown foods – there’s plenty of fresh food still available from local farmers – roots, apples, greens, cheeses, and for non-vegetarians, meat. Some communities have winter CSA shares and farmer’s markets; some coops and health food stores identify which foods are locally-sourced. Enjoy these foods, support local agriculture and reduce the distance your food has to travel to your plate.

6. Make your holiday focus on friends and family – the comfort we seek in these short, dark days is community, not more stuff. Invite friends over, invite your kids’ friends over, have fun with your extended family. It’s the warmth of each other’s company we seek when it’s this cold outside.

That’s it – a short list of only six items, not the usual ten. You can use the extra time baking those cookies!