Protect the environment during the holidays
Protect the environment during the holidays
The Gilroy Dispatch, December 15, 2004
It's good for the bottle. It's good for the can. And this holiday, recycling may just be good for the economy.
Christmas trees, holiday lights and shiny paper are all welcome signs of the season, but what about environmental pariahs?
Showing concern for the environment isn't just for Earth Day anymore as companies roll out new products designed for their eco-friendly appeal.
Sales of "healthy and sustainable" products rose 7.6 percent in 2003 to a new high of $138 billion, according to statistics published by the Natural Marketing Institute in Harleysville, Pa., and U.S. businesses overall are reporting much-improved retail gains.
While recycling and energy conservation are down, a growing number of Americans also say they will pay more for goods with less environmental impact, according to a 2002 Roper poll.
The high-end Frontgate and environmentally conscious Real Goods catalogues both began pitching solar-powered Christmas lights this year, ranging in price from $79 to $99 per strand.
The LED bulbs are powered by a solar cell near the end of each strand that collects available light during the day and uses it to create a bright, plugless display for passers by to enjoy all night long.
Best of all, the reusable strands can dramatically reduce not only electricity costs, but preserve the resources used to create that electricity.
Getting Earth-friendly doesn't stop there, though. Remembering to recycle is a key part of cleaning up the holidays.
Americans throw away an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's according to the 1997 Use Less Stuff Report, a yearly publication on consumer waste.
And while foil wrapping papers cannot be recycled, their matte counterparts can be.
The city of Morgan Hill offers Christmas recycling kits (available at BookSmart on Monterey Road), but if you live outside that city, you can easily create your own recycling system.
Use a small bag to collect reusable items like ribbons and bows, a large paper bag for recyclable tissue and wrapping papers, and a trash bag to collect Styrofoam peanuts, which can be reused for packaging throughout the year.
Christmas trees are also recyclable in the form of garden mulch, saw dust or wood chips, and some proponents say that the Christmas tree industry is, by its very nature, eco-friendly thanks to the additional oxygen that the trees put out and their ability to grow in areas where the low nutrient levels in the soil would stifle most crops.
However, a wide variety of tree alternatives are available. The city of Sheffield, England, recommended on its Web site that residents buy a living tree that they could keep potted on a base with castors attached.
At Christmastime, the base could simply be wheeled into the home for tree decoration, and the tree would increase in size each year for a fuller, lusher experience with passing years.
Finally, there's a new crop of eco-friendly and socially responsible gifts available to plop under the tree, too. Beyond the typical "Adopt-A-(fill in the blank)" campaign, shoppers this Christmas can go to one spot to adopt a minefield, literally buy a ton of air pollution and even look to have their home remodeled from recyclable materials.
This, thanks to the California Department of Conservation's Gift site, www.greengiftguide.com.
Local retailers participating in the guide include San Jose tile manufacturer Fireclay Tile (www.FireclayTile.com), whose debris series clay is mixed with used, but bio-friendly, industrial products. Soquel's Blue Lotus Sustainable Goods (www.BlueLotusBlankets.com) offers up throws made entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic.
The Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center in Morgan Hill also offers animal sponsorships ranging from $35 to $100, which include a picture of your animal, a one-year certificate of sponsorship and assorted fun facts about the animal of your choice.
"Fluorescent light bulbs make a very nice gift," said Greg Walbrecht, New York staff director of Citizens Campaign For the Environment, an 80,000-member environmental advocacy group. "It sounds like something that's not a regular, nice, cushy gift, but at the same time that you're helping the person to lower their energy bills, you may be spurring them to think about other ways they could lower their electricity consumption."
CCE (www.CitizensCampaign.org) maintains an extensive list of green holiday gift ideas from the esoteric (adopt-a-whale) to pragmatic (solar-powered kid's toys), the frugal (hemp soaps) to the extravagant (a hybrid car).