Celebrating holidays with a smaller carbon footprint

By Karen Lilley

Make your Christmas and other holiday celebrations greener this year. Avoid the crowds, chaos and commercialism, while keeping it simple, local and meaningful. Here are some ways to do that:

Give gifts of experiences: Offer to teach a skill (sewing, using technology, riding public transportation). Plan an excursion, picnic or special day together. Schedule a weekly or monthly date for a visit, walk or bike ride. Organize a group volunteer project. And don’t forget to follow up!

Support the arts and culture: Give tickets for a live performance (local arts groups include Gremlin Theatre, TU Dance Center, and TaikoArts Midwest) or a gift certificate to a museum or historic site (Gibbs Farm, Bell Museum, Goldstein Museum of Design membership). Buy handmade gifts at Shop Home for the Holidays (see the Bugle’s Holiday Shopping Guide) or from local artists (Raymond Avenue Gallery, Dow Building).

Make good happen: Give a donation or nonprofit membership in the names of people on your list. Make plans to attend a seasonal concert or charity event, and maybe it will become a tradition. Shop where your purchase supports a worthy cause (Blue House Boutique, Dec. 7-8), or your principles (Hampden Park Co-op).

Buy local: Shop at local small businesses such as the shops along Como/Carter avenues. Give gift certificates from locally owned restaurants or breweries, and don’t forget the Creative Enterprise Zone’s destination spots like Can Can Wonderland and Lake Monster.

Be a maker or doer: Are you a baker, canner, woodworker, knitter or crafter? You can make something unique and personal that’s sure to be appreciated. Are you handy with tools? Offer to do repairs or increase energy efficiency. Not so talented? Combine dry ingredients for “cookies in a jar” or soup, or a wild rice mix, topped with an instruction card and a bow.

Recycle, upcycle and reuse: Remake a rarely worn dress into an apron or a set of cloth napkins. Recycle jeans into reusable shopping bags. Or shop at second-hand, thrift or consignment stores (nearby options include Goodwill, Habitat’s ReStore and Turn Style), or vintage shops like Shag Studio and Succotash. Recycle last year’s cards into new handmade cards or gift tags or make your own. Re-use gift paper and ribbon. Email your holi­day letter.

Create new holiday traditions: Go caroling with extended family and neighbors; ask a local nursing home if you can include it on your route. Look through old family photos, play board games, skate at Langford or sled in College Park. Invite neighbors for hot chocolate.

Shrink your travel carbon footprint: Instead of flying to a family gathering, consider the train or bus to reduce your carbon debt. Then find ways to work it off, maybe with help from family members. To do the math, read Michael Russelle’s Park Bugle article “The Fare Isn’t the Only Cost in Travel” (March 2018).

Talk with family and friends about other ways to make the holidays more environmentally friendly. Together, you can make it less about stuff and more about your values and caring. Greener holidays do more than address climate change. They can be less hectic and costly but more personal, fun and memorable. Enjoy!

Karen Lilley is a St. Anthony Park resident interested in zero waste issues. A retired U. of M. Extension communications specialist, she also volunteers for the Blue House orphanage in Uganda and the International Institute of Minnesota.

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