Instead of tidings of comfort and joy, Christmas often brings mostly stress
and excess -- too much food, too much drink, too much spending, and too much
Environmentalists advocate an "eco-friendly" holiday season that
will result in a "green Christmas" that will put less strain on Mother
Earth, but some of the same choices they suggest can produce a more
people-friendly holiday as well, leading to better health for all. While a
truly organic Christmas in this day and age may be hard to imagine, it may be
possible to take some steps in that direction.
Behavioral addictions - to shopping, sex, even e-mail - trigger the same rush of feel-good dopamine to the brain as drugs and alcohol. Since these "fixes" aren't formally recognized by the medical establishment, insurance won't pony up for treatment. But that doesn't mean they can't undo your life.
Green Christmas Gifts: Healthier for You and the Environment
Consider gift giving, a major feature of the modern-day Christmas
celebration. Manufacturing gifts requires consuming resources in the form of
raw materials and energy. Shopping for them uses gasoline, and once given, the
gifts generate mountains of wrapping paper, ribbons, and cards. Then there are
all those trips back to the store to exchange unwanted items, which require
more gasoline. All this generates plenty of emotional and financial stress for
humans, as well.
"I counsel people that there are two types of gifts -- material gifts
and experiential gifts," Robert Lilienfeld, author of Use Less Stuff:
Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are, tells WebMD. "The kinds
of gifts that have the most positive emotional value -- the healthiest gifts --
are those that provide us with experiences. You can help people travel, you can
give them tickets to concerts, museums, sporting events. For teenagers, an
iTunes card is always welcome. From a use-less-stuff standpoint, this is very
positive because you're giving an experience, not a thing, and those kinds of
experiences stay with us longer anyway."
This type of gift giving also would help reduce the amount of holiday
wrapping paper and packaging destined for our landfills. But even traditional
gifts can be given in a way that minimizes waste.
"You probably have a lot of things you can use to wrap gifts that are
recyclable, such as old subway maps, magazines, and so on," says
Lilienfeld, who also publishes the ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report. "If
you give a CD, the odds are good that a newspaper or magazine will have an ad
for that group. That way the wrapping is related to the gift you're giving, and
it's something you're going to recycle anyway."
Fresh vs. Artificial Christmas Trees
Christmas trees pose a dilemma because fresh trees as well as artificial
trees have their advantages and drawbacks.
An artificial tree will last for years, thereby avoiding annual trips to buy
a fresh tree. Fresh trees may also carry mold and spores that can aggravate
allergies. Connecticut researchers recently found that the mold count from a
live Christmas tree rose to more than six times the original level after two
weeks indoors. According to the authors, the study "demonstrates that
mold-sensitive patients may experience allergic symptoms due to an increasing
mold spore exposure from having a live Christmas tree in the home."