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 waste.
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.
By Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Many years ago I had a falling-out with a girlfriend that proved so painful, I can hardly talk about it today. My friend (let's call her Mary) was a colorful television personality and had the world at her feet. She was engaged to a handsome European, and her face was plastered across the newspapers. I was working for 60 Minutes at the time, and we often met for lunch. Then one day her show was canceled and she asked me - casually, as though it didn't really matter...
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."