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 One of the most annoying Christmas traditions in Modern America is mangling the traditional song, the Twelve Days of Christmas into some parody. Then there are the bean counters who insist you know the market worth all the gifts mentioned in the song. Of course they never tell you if the "Lords-a-Leaping" are real royalty, or just replacement Lords, and the estimate of cost never reveals if the Leapers are union, or if they have full medical coverage.

In the interest of the true spirit of the holidays our Twelve Green Days of Christmas explores some of the things you can do to help celebrate in a green and sustainable way. We hope you find one or two ideas you can use, so here goes:

Buy A Rainforest

The tropical rainforests of Earth are among the densest ecologies in terms of biodiversity, and in the amount of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, people in underdeveloped countries have for too long seen the rainforest simply as a source of income from timbering, ranching and farming. Even in countries where the government realizes the importance of preserving the rainforest, it can be difficult to end deforestation and detrimental practices. A number of organizations like Word Trust http://www.worldlandtrust-us.org/ have gotten into the preservation arena by buying areas of endangered rainforest to keep them out of the hands of developers. The cost to save an acre of rainforest is about $100 per acre.

 

Get New Lights

Now, this is true for  both everyday lighting, and holiday lighting. In both cases what you want to accomplish is to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) or LED (light emitting diode) lights. CFL bulbs use much less energy than old school light bulbs, and last much longer. Up to 90% of the energy that powers an incandescent bulb is wasted by making heat.  The only drawback to CFL is that the bulbs contain mercury, so when possible it might be better to use LEDs.

HO! HO! HO!

 

Reuse Wrapping Paper

Every family has one wrapping paper recycler, or should. Simply because it takes extra manufacturing steps to create fancy, glossy or metallic looking wrapping paper, it follows that pound for pound the fancy papers create a bit more pollution than making plain brown wrap.

That's where Tissue Hoarders are worth their weight in gold. In our family, the grandmothers were the ones that monitored the opening of presents so as not to ruin the wrapping paper, which would be dutifully passed over to grandma where it was carefully folded and saved for future use.

One year my daughter picked up a small box under the tree with her name on the tag, and began to laugh. "I remember this paper!" she exclaimed. "My Little Pony!" Grandma just chuckled, "You got a rocking horse in a box wrapped with this paper when you were six. There was a lot of it to reuse. Remember four years ago when you got that camera? It was in this wrapping too." Through all the hugging and laughing between them, the rest of us in the room were silently making eye contact and engaging in synchronized eye rolling. Sooner or later, though, every one of us stopped by the tree looking to recognize any particular wraps, and several did. The reminiscence and storytelling added to the holiday spirit.

 

Green Membership Cards For Everyone!

One of the most inspiring gifts you can give, especially to youngsters, is a membership card to a green organization. Many of these groups (National Geographic and the Cousteau Society come to mind immediately) publish magazines and web sites that educate and enthrall at the same time. Many organizations have publications that are targeted toward young readers.

These are the kinds of gifts that the old cliché about "gifts that keep giving" was about.

One word of caution, though. This isn't one of those one-size-fits-all kinds of gifts. You really need to do your research on the person's passionate interests. Someone passionate about whales may not fully appreciate a membership in the Save The Garden Slug Society.

 

Create A Holiday Services Exchange

This is one idea that will either work well or fail miserably, depending on your family or organization.

This time of year many families, clubs, fraternities, even small companies organize gift exchanges. The idea is to limit expenses because nobody is expected to buy a gift for everybody else in the group. Some folks have managed to take the concept one step further, by requiring that the gift be either something the giver has personally made, or is a personal service by the giver.

By creating their own gift certificates from recycled greeting cards, folks offer everything from babysitting, housecleaning, and plumbing services. In some exchanges, as the gifts are distributed recipients can trade certificates. So child-less people get a chance to switch off a child care certificate for a certificate for bowling lessons, or something else that interests them.

 

Green Gift Certificates

Gift cards are all the rage these days. They make it really easy to buy that special someone something that they actually get to pick out. But don't forget the low tech "Gift Certificate." Just about any business has a way for you to give your friends a gift from your favorite store. Do you have some terrific local merchants down at your local Farmer's Market? Do you have a really good produce stand that you love? Ask them if they can sell you a gift certificate. It's a win-win situation. Your friends and family get a great gift, and the local business gets a chance to make another regular customer.

 

The Gift of Car Maintenance

Here's one that people seldom think of. Give a driver you love a tune-up and an oil change for the holidays. A tune-up can restore lost mileage, while an oil change and all the little maintenance checks that usually come with it can help make sure a car is running at its best and most efficient.

Fluids topped off, tires checked, new plugs, hey! While you're at it indulge yourself. Your car deserves a spa session too!

 

For The Person Who Has Everything

 

There is always someone on your holiday list who seems to have at least one of everything already. One thing the acquisitionally gifted all appreciate is a contribution to their favorite cause or charity. If you know that someone on your list is a big supporter of the Red Cross, or Habitat for Humanity, or some other organization they support big time, why not consider making a contribution in their honor?

Chances are your friend will appreciate a contribution to a group they support a lot more than another doodad that will probably just get tossed into a drawer somewhere.

 

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Ninety-eight percent of Christmas trees sold in this country were grown on farms, not cut out of a forest habitat. About 10 million trees end in the landfill every year despite the growing popularity and availability of recycling programs that render Christmas trees into mulch and wood chips. You can find the nearest Christmas tree recycle program at www.earth911.com.

 

Pass It Down

Chances are that you have some special item that you are hanging on to that you intend to pass along to the next generation. Maybe this Christmas is the right time to make that heirloom gift. Of course there are considerations, aren’t there always?

Is the recipient old enough to fully appreciate the family history embodied in the gift? Are they settled enough that they have an appropriate place to keep a family heirloom safely stored? If the answer to those kinds of questions is yes, then it might just be time to pass it down to the next generation.

 

Give The Gift Of Music

Twenty years ago one of my kids got dragged (unwillingly) to an Arlo Guthrie concert. Remarkably, while seeking out an autograph, the youngster in question actually got into a half hour conversation with Arlo about the hot rock and roll bands of the day. The fact that Mr. Guthrie spent time with him, and had an appreciation for "his" music made him a music lover for life.

The holidays are usually celebrated with any number of musical performances from the Nutcracker to Pops Performances, to sing-along caroling. It might be worth looking into what's scheduled for your town, and introduce the next generation to the joys of concert going.

 

A Partridge In A Pear Tree

Or a pecan tree, or a peach tree, or a crape myrtle or ... Call it blatant self promotion if you must, but PlantMeGreen is a great source for environmentally friendly gifts. What could be better than sending someone you love a fruit or nut tree? They'll think of you every time they reach up to pick something good to eat.

There you go, PlantMeGreen's suggestions for a greener holiday. We hope some of these ideas will help you and yours to have a Merry and Green Christmas and a Happy New Year!