Lifestyle

Hints for going green are tough to take

The Bookworm

“Green Christmas” by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander, with Anne Basye, c. 2008, Adams Media, $7.95, 192 pages, includes index.

Picture this: it’s Dec. 30 and there are four garbage bags at your curb, all filled with what were once rolls and rolls of colorful, decorated paper.

Several cardboard boxes sit next to the bags. Peek inside them, and you’d see tattered cellophane, plastic wrappers and crumbly foam packaging.

Leaning against everything, shedding its needles, hiding an errant ornament and wisps of wrinkled tinsel, is a sad-looking pine.

Wasteful? You bet. According to authors Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander (with Anne Basye), our trash output rises by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In the new book “Green Christmas,” they’ll give you ideas you can use to cut the waste and have an eco-friendly holiday season.

Cut back at Christmas? Bah, humbug, right? Not so, say the authors. Even if you back off buying, wrapping and decorating just a little bit, it adds up. Change doesn’t mean loss of traditions; it means new traditions for your family.

Take, for instance, the feast. Leftovers are great – if they’re eaten. The authors say that “if every American threw away just one uneaten tablespoon of mashed potatoes [each year], that would add 16 million pounds of waste to our landfills.” Their advice: buy locally-grown produce, don’t over-prepare food and donate extra to the local food pantry or shelter.

You may think an artificial Christmas tree is “greener” but the authors prove that’s not true. Instead, consider a live tree you can plant in your yard when it gets warmer or skip a tree altogether and decorate with leftover branches from a tree lot. If your family insists on a “real” tree, recycle it after the holidays. And if you’re tired of the same old ornaments, consider an ornament swap with like-minded friends.

So how do you tame the Gimmes and go green with gifts? Be creative, the authors say. Give the gift of time. Make presents or give gift certificates to a local resale store (where there are all sorts of gently used treasures). Donate something meaningful in the recipient’s name. Be clever with your wrapping or give something that doesn’t have to be wrapped at all.

Reading “Green Christmas” is a little like eating holiday fruitcake: some parts are delicious and in good taste. Other parts will make you wrinkle your nose.

Yes, the authors have some obviously valid, valuable ideas but they also contradict themselves (shop at locally-owned stores, they say, and later they trumpet online shopping) and some of the ideas are downright odd (take the kids on a fun-filled, magical Christmas trip to the town dump so they can see how much stuff is wasted). There’s an abundance of ideas on greening Christmas, but few tips for getting the family on-board, an omission that may make implementing the hints difficult at best.

If you’re adamant about a completely, totally green lifestyle and can risk being called a “Grinch,” then pick up “Green Christmas.” If you love the holidays just as they are, though, don’t waste your money.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,500 books.

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