Green and the Holiday Tree


Green is a natural fit for the holiday season. Not only is green a longstanding holiday color with its inseparable red partner, but it is also the color of trees, and of course the winter tree of all trees, the Christmas Tree (evergreen, pine or fir).

When I think of a tree, the obvious attribute of ‘greenness’ comes to mind, but also its character: enduring, deep-rooted, and benevolent.

Around Christmas time, those attributes seem timely. As a season of giving, friendship, and family, it is akin to trees. These qualities, enduring, deep-rooted and benevolent, typify the green movement in many ways, too.

While ‘green’, trees and Christmas may go hand in hand, one cannot help but ask – how is it that we have grown so far away from the inherent qualities of ‘green-ness’ this time of year?

We have good intentions, yet, at the end of the day, doesn’t it seem as though we have grown farther from sustainability and deep-rooted-ness? And at the same time, have we not grown closer to mass consumption?

Some of our seasonal challenges to green-ness:
• Shopping ++ (busiest shopping time of year)
• Wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, tape, paper, tissue, boxes galore
• Shipping gifts all over the country (carbon emissions)
• Extra food, chocolate, alcohol consumption

While I too find myself engaged in all of the above, I also feel tinges of guilt as well. On the one hand, I want to give gifts to family and friends – to recognize the love that they share in my life and as an act of appreciation; however, as I find myself wrapping gift after gift and running to the post office, I also discover dismay at the ritual. Is it really necessary, I ponder. Isnt there a better, less wasteful way ?

I know these questions have been asked by countless others, and the answers are seemingly simple: there are so many ways to show appreciation. Buying gifts is just one. Yet somehow, this is so hard to enact. We all get caught up in the collective frenzy of holiday giving, celebrating and indulging– and as one of the busiest times of year, shopping always seems easier than making something. Stores also kindly remind us how easy and important it is to do this, with all the many sales, best prices of the year, and inviting specials. How can one resist?

What is the alternative? One obvious one is to make all of one’s gifts. Sounds terrific, yet, as noted above, with a full-time job, a spouse, family, and other commitments – how does anyone find the time to make gifts? Please advise if someone has discovered the trick….

Other solutions? Go Green, of course. Give rather than buy and when needed, buy ‘green.’

There are some really good companies out there ‘greening’ the holiday season, to reduce the guilt. For example, Green Wraps with their hand-sewn fabric wrapping for gifts, as well as all the many online green apparel companies for women and children, such as Bamboozled with bamboo clothing for kids and babies, even Barneys this year is supposedly going all out green.

Tree Hugger also has an excellent green guide to the holidays too worth checking out.

Another nice idea is to give a gift of charitable donation or loan. Kiva is a wonderful new company that offers small loans to eager entrepreneurs from all over the world through established micro credit organizations. With just $25 you can radically improve someone elses standard of living anywhere around the world.

There are many other non-purchase related activities that you can do to Green the holidays, too. One tradition in my family is the ‘Hand-made Secret Santa.’ We all pick out of a hat and who’s ever name we get we must make them a gift by hand for Christmas. Undoubtedly year after year, these gifts become the most memorable, meaningful and talked about gifts for years to come. Pouring hours into them, at the end of the day, it becomes rather rewarding and fun.

Making Christmas dinner together, singing carols, ice-skating, playing games, hiking, skiing, and walking outdoors are all fun, low environmental footprint activities as well. What’s your favorite green activity?

Here’s to greener holiday for all, and may the virtues of the ‘green tree’ cloak our holiday spirit as an enduring, deep-rooted and benevolent time.