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Emphasize green in your holiday this year

by Russ Barnett, director for research and development, Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development last modified Dec 08, 2011 12:15 PM

For many people this time of the year, the predominant holiday colors are red and green.

This year, emphasize green – here’s how.

  • Use magazine covers, comics, old sheet music, a too-small shirt, a tea towel or colored newsprint for wrapping presents. While gift giving and wrapping presents date back to early Rome, modern mass-produced gift paper became commercially available in 1903 in the United States. In 1917, the Hall Brothers’s (Hallmark) typical offering of green, red and white tissue paper had sold out in their Kansas City, Mo., store a few days before Christmas. The resourceful owner, Rollie Hall, had sheets of decorative envelope liners shipped over from a manufacturing plant which quickly sold out, and a new industry of one-time-use paper was born. Reduce your post-holiday waste and imaginatively re-use products to wrap gifts.
  • Purchase local, organically grown foods for your holiday dinner. Not only does it taste better, but it helps the local economy, reduces the carbon footprint of food that on-average travels 1,200 miles to your table and reduces the amount of pesticides used. Grasshoppers, farmers markets and some grocery stores offer locally grown foods.
  • Give a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Buy a membership to a local museum, natural area or environmental organization; adopt a wilderness area or endangered species; give tuition for a class. A gift does not have to be an object that may eventually end up in a landfill. It can be anything that enhances the recipient’s life. Use your imagination.
  • Artificial tree, cut tree or live tree? The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas probably began in Latvia or in Germany in the 16th century, and was introduced to the United States by German immigrants in the late 18th century. To many people, the tree symbolizes the holidays, but you can create symbolic “trees” using fruit, baked goods, candles, cloth, strings of cranberries or popcorn. The best-loved “tree” in my family was a clump of uniquely shaped cedar roots that stood 12-feet high in our living room and stayed for five years serving also as an Easter, 4th of July and fall tree. Artificial trees are made mostly of recycled PVC, with an environmental footprint less than a cut tree if it is used for 15 or more years. Cut trees are mostly grown as an agricultural product, but should be reused after the holidays as mulch or for wildlife habitat as a brush pile. Live trees can be replanted after the holidays, but, because late December is not an ideal time to plant, mortality rates are high.
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