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10 WAYS TO A GREENER CHRISTMAS

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10 WAYS TO A GREENER CHRISTMAS

Postby GreenRealty » Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:20 pm

10 WAYS TO A GREENER CHRISTMAS
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Vacation at Home!

Spend a fraction of the money you would on that big, expensive trip! Instead, why not make your home into a fancy resort for a few days. Unplug the phone (leave a message saying you're away), rent a giant screen TV, heck, rent a hot tub! There's lots of things you can do with the thousands you'll be saving. We get so little time off in the good old USA as it is, and then we rush to some exotic destination with barely time to unpack and repack.

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There are lots of other reasons to keep it local this holiday season, including the community-building, simplicity-promoting ones. But the main reason is that the biggest damage we do to the environment, bigger than never recycling or even driving everywhere, is to fly on an airplane. Flying uses an amazing amount of fuel (kerosene, believe it or not), and creates an amazing amount of pollution

It saves the environment, is saner and simpler, and helps promote your local community. In America, we get so few vacations, days off, free time. We work all the time. So when we do get a break, what do we do? Jump on a plane and rush somewhere else! Let's rethink this.

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So you may recycle your newspapers. You may take buses or bike wherever you can. You may compost, wash and reuse your plastic bags, carry around your own coffee mug, use compact fluorescent lightbulbs, turn down the heat, all of it. But you're still not doing enough good to outweigh all the harm you do if you fly a lot. Sorry.

The main reason is that jet planes are HUGE oil consumers. The first problem with that is that the oil extraction and processing business is a highly toxic affair. The second problem is that planes contribute a tremendous amount of carbon to the global greenhouse. And as we all know, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main gas causing global warming. It is a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. And nothing uses fuel more than an airplane.

How much? The average airplane sends approximately one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every passenger it carries from New York to London. That's more carbon dioxide production than a year's worth of driving. Over distances less than 350 miles, air travel produces around three times more carbon dioxide per passenger than rail.Indeed, air transport is the single fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Global air traffic has quadrupled since 1970, from 350 billion passenger miles a year to 1.5 trillion passenger miles a year last year. Meanwhile, air fares have fallen by 40 per cent in real dollars in the past 25 years. Indeed, aviation has the highest growth rate of all modes of transport worldwide.

The result? Aviation is the source of about 13 per cent of the carbon dioxide emitted by all transport and represents two per cent of all human-made carbon dioxide emissions. If you think about the totality of personal, communal and industrial production, including every fire we burn on every level, that's a huge percentage.

What's worse, jet engines give out not only carbon dioxide but also nitrogen oxides. Once a plane reaches cruise altitude, these increase ozone concentrations in the upper atmosphere, contributing significantly to the greenhouse effect. Vapor trails of tiny ice particles also have a greenhouse effect by preventing the escape of infra-red radiation from the atmosphere.

Aviation is on schedule to produce 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2015 - a 159 per cent increase over 1992. And by 2050 experts forecast an overall 487 per cent increase in yearly carbon dioxide emissions from 1992.

What can we do? Fly less! It's also a saner way to spend your holiday, as any American who's rushed to relatives only to rush back to their home in a blur will tell you. And there's one final benefit: the local business community you live in will appreciate it if you keep yourself and your dollars where you live. And it's nice to feel a little rooted, to relax and just enjoy where you live as if you were on vacation. So, next opportunity, take a pass on the air travel, and enjoy the fact that you've done the single most significant thing you can do to save the environment.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

For many of us, Christmas would not be the same without the traditional living tree and decorations. And Green Home is not a Scrooge when it comes to Ole Tannenbaum! After all, if you're going to have a tree, it's incredibly wonderful to have a real one rather than a plastic one. Most Christmas trees are grown on managed tree farms for Christmas or come from thinnings of larger forests. They are a renewable resource and generate employment. So here's a surprise: Green Home says to go ahead and cut down that tree and have a green Christmas!

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Now, if you can, buy a tree with roots in a pot, which you can use year after year. Why not? When it grows too big for indoor use, it can be replanted outdoors in the garden (unless you live where it's very cold -- see below). There are more and more potted trees on the market each year, so look around in your community. If you opt for an artificial tree, select a good quality product, which can be used for many years.

Many communities offer recycling programs where you can leave your old Christmas tree to be shredded. Check with your local authority before disposing of your tree to see if they have such a scheme.

Make sure that your tree is properly secured and positioned away from doors, stairs, open fires, and heaters. Use only good quality Christmas tree lights which meet approved standards. We suggest LED lights that use 1/50th the energy of regular holiday lights and don't present a fire danger because they do not get hot. If watering a tree, ensure that the electricity is switched off and that no water comes in contact with the lights! According to a recent study from the University of Minnesota, Christmas trees are renewable and environmentally friendly. In a recent newsletter, they write:

If you're heading to a Christmas tree lot or tree farm soon, go without a twinge of environmental guilt, suggests Deborah Brown, horticulturist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Harvesting trees for holiday decorations is environmentally sound because the trees are raised for that purpose, often on marginal land that wouldn't support other types of agriculture.

"During the seven to ten years that a Christmas tree grows, the tree provides wildlife habitat and helps hold the soil and prevent erosion," Brown adds. "Commercial tree operations plant and harvest trees every year. Each year's harvest is quickly renewed, and tree farms never strip large portions of land for a single year's holiday greenery."

She says environmentally-conscious Minnesotans sometimes think they should "save forests" by using a living Christmas tree and then planting it in the yard after the holidays. "This sounds good, but it almost never works in a climate as cold as Minnesota's," Brown says. "Even if a tree is kept indoors for only a day or two -- and few people are willing to keep a tree up for such a short time--a live tree begins to come out of dormancy. Then it can't take the shock of returning outdoors where temperatures may hover around zero in late December."

Brown adds that because light levels are low here in winter, keeping a tree indoors until weather moderates is also impractical. "Clearly the idea of a living Christmas tree is intended for areas with milder weather than here," she says. "If you want to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of a north woods conifer, go ahead and buy a fresh cut tree. No one should feel guilty about using a live tree for a few weeks of holiday enjoyment."
Source: Deb Brown, (612) 624-7491
Writer: Deedee Nagy, EDS


Make your presents

Christmas is a time for giving, but everything you give does not have to be brand new. This year take some time to think of things that reuse or recycle something that's already in the world. A little thought and care can make a huge difference in avoiding damage to the environment and it can even be more fun.

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There's a lot more to the "make your own" idea than meets the eye. Besides actually making something by hand, you could include giving a gift you already have. A big part of not just buying something is showing the love that comes from creating something personal. Service gifts can be incredibly special, so consider what it might mean to write somebody a card that gives the gift of your time.

Think of your friends and what they really need. Maybe you could use your baking or baby-sitting skills, or help somebody clean or move. Or if you don't have the time or inclination, think of finding a product handmade by a local artist. And at the bottom of the totem pole is: at least get your loved ones something that shows that you know they care about the planet. Or Buy From Us!

Don't use wrapping paper

Just use the box. It's OK. No one will mind. One cool idea is to wrap the box once around in each direction with ribbon (as you would do after using wrapping paper) but don't use the wrapping paper. Just add a bow, and it will look like a present, but it will generate a lot less waste.

You can even add bows to holiday shopping bags or gift boxes. Or wrap gifts in brown paper bags or newspaper. Use the cartoon section for brighter colors. If you are willing to have a little fun, gather up scraps of paper and tape, glue, foil, cardboard from cereal boxes, scraps of materials, bubble wrap, you name it, and glue it all to the side of the box! You can both get rid of this stuff, save a bunch of packaging, and delight the recipient of your gift!

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You can also wrap gifts in festive holiday fabric, dishtowels or bandannas, which can simply be washed and reused. Give gifts in baskets, tins or jars. Save bows, ribbons and paper to reuse next year. Shred used wrapping paper to use as filler or instead of tissue. Buy recycled gift wrap. Write recipient's name on reusable wooden ornaments and use as a gift tag. If you buy gift wrap, look for recycled paper with the highest post-consumer content you can find.

Conserve

Save energy, save water, save heat. How? Replace your incandescents, get a low flow shower head, and turn down the heat. It can be that simple, but if you're curious, there's actually a whole list.

Selecting gifts online (don't forget our sponsor http://www.greenrealtygreenstore.com!) and through catalogs saves time and resources. Online shopping also helps eliminate the hassle of dealing with crowds and conserves gasoline. Here is a good article on Shopping Online

If everyone used just one gallon less during this holiday season, that small bit of conservation would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1 million tons. Here's a whole list of conservation measures you can take around the holidays.

Save Energy.

It's easier than ever, and can make a huge difference. Here's the painful truth: The single biggest producer of greenhouse gases is not heavy industry. It's our homes. Homes use about half the energy of the country.

Electricity is the first place to look for inefficiencies. So much energy is wasted in generating, transmitting and then using electricity that it delivers only one quarter of the energy in the original fuel. Experts have calculated what an individual's or a family's 'fair share' of CO2-emissions might be. Based on the total world population and the overall use of energy of all kinds (for industry, heating, cooking, travel and so on), each individual is entitled to generate just 2.3 tons of CO2 a year.

Currently, we make on average about six times that, or 12.6 tons of CO2 per family unit per year. So here's a quick top ten list within our bigger top ten list of how to save electricity, among other things:

1. Replace your regular Christmas lights with LEDs. And your regular lights with compact fluorescents.

2. Don't use electrical appliances for things you can easily do by hand, such as opening cans.

3. Use cold water in the washer whenever possible. It usually works fine.

4. Take unwanted, re-usable items to a charitable organization or thrift shop. You will feel great.

5. Install a low flow shower head.

6. When you're brushing your teeth, don't leave the water running.

7. Turn your heat down. Wear a sweatshirt. Cuddle.

8. Turn off the lights, TV, or other electrical appliances when you are out of a room. It's a habit.

9. Flush the toilet less often. If it's a wee little pee, wait.

10. Turn down the heat and turn off the water heater before you leave for that vacation we asked you not to go on.

Buy Local

If possible, support your local businesses, especially the ones that are trying to be green. If certain options don't exist in your neighborhood, then that's what Green Realty Green Store is for. But we would rather you see what's available where you live. One great gift idea: give nontangibles!

Give someone you love tickets to a local concert or to a local theatre production. Or give them a local restaurant certificate, concert or movie tickets, memberships to museums or favorite organizations, or perhaps ice-skating, yoga, floral arranging, or cooking classes. Fun!

Buy Recycled

Buy gifts that are made of recycled materials, i.e.: welcome mats, irrigation hoses or surface cushion tiles made of recycled tires; clothing or items made of recycled plastic bottles; crafts or products made of scrapwood or reclaimed lumber.

Buy rechargeable batteries to go with new electronic toys. Encourage proper disposal of used small batteries. i.e.: small battery disposal programs offered by participating Wal-Marts, ACE Hardware, Radio Shack, Target, Black and Decker, Circuit City, Ameritech, etc.

Buy high quality, durable goods to reduce waste. A higher priced item may last longer and reduce the amount of junk merchandise ending up in landfills. i.e.: leather shoes rather than vinyl or cloth; high efficiency fluorescent light bulbs; or well made clothing items.

Buy living gifts. House plants, garden seeds or potted trees that can be transplanted in the spring. Ideas like these can lessen the impact our celebrations have on the earth and leave us with more time to enjoy them. By changing the ways we mark the season, we can gain more time for the things that really matter and end up making more memories... and less mess!

Get a few nice shopping bags and use them

Get a few nice shopping bags and use them. It's amazing how much good you can do (and how good you can feel) if you just drive around with a bunch of your bags! There are few better feelings on earth than walking into a store (or the farmers market) with your own bags. It's downright lovely! And, re-use brown paper bags to line your trash can instead of plastic bags.

Reusable Bags and Containers
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Make Donations

Find out what matters to your friends and family and make a donation to an organization that would be meaningful to them. Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on holiday gifts of money, stock, and personal property, even insurance to continue their work. Consider donations to a local organic farm or CSA or citizen-based environmental protection group.

Take unwanted, reusable items to a charitable organization or thrift store.

Volunteer!

It may seem a cliche, but you really can make a difference. And there's nothing that gets to the heart of the matter, taking care of each other, than reaching out and making somebody's holiday a little more like it should be.

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