Bing Crosby crooned of a “White Christmas,” Elvis sang a “Blue Christmas,” but at our house we’re looking for a green Christmas.
Yes, Christmas — the holiday that too often celebrates consumption — doesn’t have to be wasteful or carry excess baggage. There are plenty of ways to celebrate the season with goodwill toward your neighbor, the community and the earth.
Last year, my wife and I started rethinking gifts. Our blended family of five no longer has small children, and as our kids grow into adults, they may still desire stuff, but they’re not getting as much of it. The New York Times reported on research that had determined that the gifts of experiences make people happier than receiving things. We gave concert tickets to see Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. The teen and tween girls were thrilled.
They carry more memories and there’s less to throw away. I, for one, learned that if you’re a dad and you take your 12-year-old girl to a Taylor Swift concert, there is never a line at the men’s room in a crowd of 60,000 mothers and their daughters.
Our city is also home to Alternative Gifts International. Our church sets up a marketplace each year for this group, which for the past quarter century has been selling gifts to help the poor and underprivileged in the U.S. and around the world. You can buy meals for a child in Haiti or for homeless Americans in the name of a friend or family member, as their gift to the world. You can help rescue girls in India and southeast Asia from sex slavery or pay to provide medicines for health care workers backpacking their clinics across Burma. Peace on earth, indeed. Order gifts at www.alternativegifts.org.
For the people on our list who do get stuff, we’re replacing wrapping paper with reusable cloth gift bags. We’re making our own. You can easily find plans online. You can even buy them readymade. We got the idea from the movie “The Clean Bin Project,” where Jen Rustemeyer said gift bags had been handed down for generations in her family. So it provides less to throw away, and another memorable family tradition.
Other tips for a green Christmas include:
• Buy used gifts. Ever shop at a yard sale or antique store? That’s what I’m talking about.
• Batteries are a huge cost at Christmas and many will end up in the trash after they run out. Even rechargeable batteries die. Look for toys where batteries aren’t required. Having older kids, I was thrilled to find they still make a throwback to my childhood,Lincoln Logs
• Get a live Christmas tree. Many nurseries sell evergreens in pots with their roots intact, suitable for decorating. Be sure and ask someone at the nursery how toproperly care for it
• Decorate with LED lights. They last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less power than conventional minilights. Every place I’ve seen Christmas lights in Wichita is selling them now.
Having a green Christmas isn’t that difficult. Just don’t ask me to sing about it. You really don’t want to hear that.
GREEN NOTES: Learn how Kansas businesses are recycling ink and printer cartridges in this week’s Green Guide. Go to www.kansasgreenteams.org/green-guide. … Save the date: Jan. 28 is a free public fair at the annual Regional Energy and Sustainability Fair. Don’t let that word “sustainability” scare you. It’s full of demonstrations and expert advice on how to live a life that’s, well, more sustainable.