Since I was raised in the United States in an Irish Catholic household these are the holidays I personally celebrate. I would love to hear about any and all traditions or holidays that readers embrace and how this year might be the one where an environmental twist can be placed on those celebrations!
For the past couple weeks we have been saying that for Halloween this year we will wear our most tattered clothing and go as out of work bankers. When I was a kid, that same costume was called a Hobo when a clown face was added. It is difficult to imagine myself fitting into my old Halloween costume this year so I am on the prowl to scour my closet and come up with alternate solutions by utilizing items I already have or can acquire very inexpensively.
This trend seems to be catching on as I was reading some comments on my personal blog from Julie. She said:
“So, I pulled out my sewing machine the other night. It's been a while. But it was fun, and I was pretty proud of my "freehand" upcycled creation. The four of us are going to a costume party for Halloween, and since the boys are going to be Batman and Robin, DH & I are going as The Joker & Catwoman. So, I converted a goodwill shirt into a shiny (literally) new green vest for the clown-faced villain in my life. Basic, but like I said, I'm happy with it. :) Still, I need to make a headpiece/mask/ears & tail for my costume, and convert a yellow t-shirt into a cape for Robin...”
Then there was the year that my sister in law spray painted cardboard boxes and glued on cups to turn my nephews into Legos.
When a child goes out trick or treating the signal for where to stop for treats is a porch light left on so how can we simultaneously conserve energy? Perhaps install a CFL bulb prior to that evening. Or there is always the option of placing this little baby out on the stoop: A solar powered lantern. Charge it that day in bright sunlight and it will hold a thirty hour charge. The candy will run out before the lantern light does!
Countless gallons of fossil fuel are burned on the biggest travel day of the year. Gallons of water are down the drain. Electric usage soars while the oven runs for six continuous hours, the television stays on for the football games while everyone naps on the couch and extra lights are turned on all over the house.
So what can we do about it while we still enjoy a hearty meal and laughs with our respective relations?
For starters those hosting this festive occasion can purchase just what is needed of locally grown and organic food. Less fossil fuel is burned because the items have less distance to travel and with no added chemicals it will be a healthier meal all around.
Family and friends who are headed out in their cars to take advantage of this healthier feast can definitely improve their emissions by completing a few small steps prior to the date of travel. Have tires checked and inflated to proper pressure, make sure oil and filter changes as well as tune ups are all up to date. A properly working vehicle is key!
It might seem difficult to reduce a carbon footprint while flying but we can -- pack a travel mug in our carry on bag to fill up with a beverage of choice once past security, attempt to carry on only reducing the weight of baggage on the flight (basically do not over pack), park in an out-lot and take the shuttle to the terminal (less time cruising for a perfect parking spot, carpool instead) and plant a tree (or ten) upon returning home to help offset some of the carbon utilized while on the plane.
For those with a dishwasher that like to rinse dishes, fill a dishpan or the sink halfway with warm water and soak the dishes rather than spending time running them under a faucet. This will cut down on wasted gallons of water and improve the efficiency of the dishwasher. For those without a dishwasher just add soap to the warm water and let the dishes soak. Wash them all at once and rinse them all at once.
About a half hour after the meal is over most everyone stretched out on the sofa (bed, floor, chair) will be passed out but the television will still be running for the duration of that nap. Why not set the sleep timer to turn off after an hour? Encourage guests to be mindful of leaving lights on throughout the house, turn them off when leaving a room.
There is nothing quite like taking an entire day to give thanks and show gratitude for the wealth of things we have in our lives and one of them is the environment. For a complete list of some great tips check out this site.
In decades past this was the time of Yule logs burning and smells of cinnamon mixed with winter pine. A time when kids were on break from school so they could have snowball fights, go sledding and build snowmen. A time of frosty noses and family, friends and fun, peace and joy. More recently this holiday has turned into a race to the mall where countless items are purchased for individuals we barely know perpetuating a cycle of disposable consumerism. Acknowledging each other and the fuzzy feelings we have with a special little something is perfectly wonderful but maybe it is time to think outside the box stores to do something that will bring an even greater sense of warmth to everyone involved and give back to humanity at the same time.
Shop local. Instead of driving miles away to a mall or other big box retailer, explore the cities or towns we live in to bring our dollars back into our own communities. This will help boost local economies, keep people employed and build relationships in the places we all live.
Buy handmade items from independent artisans. When we absolutely have to shop online, consider purchasing something more unique from an artist who put their heart and soul into creating that item. Independent artisans are to the internet what local retailers are to a town. The service is always more personalized and generally the products are of a higher quality. I suggest starting the search on Etsy where each shop is independently owned and the items are as unique as the shop names.
Consider donating to a charity in someone else’s name. With amazing success this is something my Mom instituted last year in an effort to rid her home of stuff. We jumped on the train and it was amazingly successful throughout our family. There is something out there that everyone believes in whether it is environmental or humanitarian in nature. There are many on the receiving end of the donation who benefit so the giver and recipient both feel great about doing something special for someone else.
Create a personalized gift. One year for a holiday I purchased a simple plastic box frame, some tiny accoutrements (a plastic phone, a shoe, etc), glued them to the face of the frame, printed a photo of my sister and I and put it inside. She still has that gift to this day. Using our imaginations we can create all kinds of heartfelt gifts that will be cherished for years.
Simply spend time with someone. The holidays can be a difficult time of year for many people. When we embrace what the spirit of the holiday season is all about we will find that sharing a cup of tea over great conversation on a Sunday afternoon is a far greater gift than anything purchased.