For the majority of the year, we try to be good stewards of the Earth, we recycle, we work to reduce our consumption, and we educate ourselves to use products which create habitat rather than destroy habitat. But come the holidays we tend to lose track of our “tread lightly” mindset.

The more we learn about the challenges our natural world is facing, the more we feel guilty for our gluttony of the season. So, this year we’ve given great thought to mitigating our annual holiday environmental disaster, some of it is very doable, and some of it…well, we’ll see.

Our biggest assault to the environment is the large family dinner we host Christmas night – so many people, with so many disposable plates and cups and napkins and utensils! The environmentally friendly portion of our brains cries out as the garbage piles up. Our first inclination is to look into buying a set of glass dishes to use year after year. The expense would be one time, and the dishes washable.

This seems doable. However, we have also been trying to reduce how much stuff we store in our home, so we’re struggling with the idea of a set of special dishes, dishes which won’t be used every day and will have to be stored. So we look into recyclable or compostable dishes. I’m still researching this topic and trying to find an affordable green alternative. While it appears there are multiple options, many of them are cost prohibitive for us at this moment.

A family dinner allotment won’t be that expensive, but you have to order in large lots – plates in lots of 200, utensils in lots of 500…we’re back to storing again. And if the dishes are compostable, can you store them? The search continues, and until we can find something which fits all of our criteria, we’ll go with paper disposables which aren’t plastic coated. It’s not a perfect option, but it is a better choice than what we’ve done in the past.

Our next holiday-induced environmental catastrophe to tackle is wrapping paper. Each year we consume several rolls to hide the treasures under our tree and add to the decoration of our home. We recycle the spent paper, and we are careful to reuse the items which can’t be recycled such as bows and ribbon, but is that enough? I don’t think so! A little research led me to purchasing holiday fabric which I used to make wonderful reusable drawstring gift bags.

Unfortunately, my motivation for sewing ran out before I finished, and I still have remaining fabric. A little more research has led me to furoshiki wrapping, the art of wrapping with fabric. If you’d like to learn more about this ancient art, simply do a search for “furoshiki tutorial” there are tons on the Internet, in varying levels of difficulty.  I’m planning to have some elegantly cloth-wrapped gifts this year, and less waste in the can. Woohoo!

Another area of greening for us has been our holiday cards. There was a time when we sent beautiful cards, full of tales from the fading year, to people from whom we seldom heard. But these days, thanks to the Internet, we are in regular contact with the people we hold dear, and the cards seem redundant. So the holiday card, which requires natural resources to make and send, is no longer a part of our celebration.

I will admit, however, that this is one tradition I am missing. How fun it was to receive cards from around the world, to see the different styles, read familiar handwriting, and for a moment to stop and reconnect! This being greener is not without its sacrifices.

Tree lighting is another area we are looking at making a bit greener. The old incandescent bulbs, even the little miniature ones, are hotter and take more energy to run that the new LED lights.

I will admit, we’ve been looking at these new LED lights for a few years and at first, I did not like them. In the beginning, the colors were harsh and the slight flicker drove me crazy. Recently, however, they’ve improved dramatically, the colors are warmer and the flickering issue has been solved. We’ve put this change off so long that our old colored lights have faded to hints of red, green, and gold, so I believe LED lights will be our biggest green investment for this year.

No, this will not be our year of greening perfection, and that’s okay. If we can continue to make small changes in our effort to walk a little more gently on this planet, then we will be happy, and our precious Earth might be as well. And if our Earth is happier, then our birds will be better off, and that, my friends, is worth all of the research, cost and thought.

We wish you all Happy Holidays and Good Tidings for the New Year!

By Brenda Callaway