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Your gift to the environment

Feature Story - 2005-12-28
In many countries it's holiday season. If last-minute shopping, baking and decorating turn you into Ebenezer Scrooge, just think about the toll this season takes on the environment.

Follow these 12 steps to spread a little love for the environment this holiday season.

But don't worry, you don't have to choose between enjoying this time of year and becoming an environmental stick in the mud. There are plenty of simple steps that you and your family can take if you are dreaming of a "green" holiday season.  To have your gingerbread cookie and eat it too, check out the 12 tips below.

1: Cut down on your shopping. As a general rule the more you buy and consume the more of the planet's limited resources your using up. Try to buy local produce to cut the travel miles your holiday essentials have clocked up.

2: Travel smart. When it's time to go shopping for the perfect gift or visit relatives, try to take public transportation or carpool for trips. Every time you hop in your car or even worse a plane, you're producing greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. Even better? Shop online. You can get your loved ones gift memberships to environmental organizations, like Greenpeace.

3: Pay for the present, not the packaging. Put some thought into the gifts you are purchasing. Avoid products that are over-packaged or made from toxic PVC plastic or from endangered trees like mahogany.

4: Pull the plug on dirty presents. Electronics are popular gifts so rather than just consider the cost, check out which companies are doing more than others to make cleaner products. This years presents shouldn't be next years toxic waste.

5: Cut down on wrapping paper. Why not have fun making your own wrapping paper out of recycled paper? With a potato stamp and some water paint you can make unique wrapping paper. Cut up last years cards to make perfect recycled gift tags. Make sure your waste wrapping paper goes in the recycling.

6: Be tree friendly. If a tree is traditionally part of your celebrations, a living, potted one is your best option because it can be reused next year. If you must use a cut tree, ask your local officials about tree recycling or if you can chip the tree to use as mulch in your garden.

7: Less is more. If you decorate your home with lights, think about how much energy they use. Don't forget to turn off the lights before you go to bed or go out, and use LED bulbs to save energy.

8: Go au natural. Replace those plastic, over-priced holiday decorations, with natural reuseable decorations like whitewashed branches and pine cones. They can put you in the holiday spirit just as easily as a huge, inflatable snowman can.

9: Cut down on your use of paper. If you send holiday cards, look for a recycled content or better yet, send an e-card.

10: Break out the china. When it comes time to party down, do so with real dishes - not disposables. Ask your friends to borrow some of their plates and glasses or rent them. Cleanup will be a little tougher, but it's worth it. If you must use disposable, look for recycled content.

11: Hang lots of mistletoe. This won't really help the environment, but it's good advice nonetheless ;)

12: Get started on those New Year's resolutions! If you've followed these 12 tips for the holiday season why not be good to the climate for the whole of 2006 by following our 12 tips for individual action on global warming?