This Holiday Season…

Think Green

As the shopping frenzy unfurled on Thanksgiving Day (what happened to that holiday is for another blog) I began to compose the list of things I needed to get done for Christmas, my gift purchase list, and my own Christmas “want” list.

Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, essentially 1million extra tons a week.1  If everyone made some small changes together we could considerably decrease this number.

In the madness of consumerism that surrounds this holiday season, I “want” others to consider the impact they have with the gifts they buy and the items they want for themselves.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I found some nice suggestions that I plan to incorporate into my own “green” holiday season:

CARDS –>

  • Send holiday greetings via e-mail. It’s a great way to share photos and keep in touch more frequently. I have a hard time with this one because this is the one time of year where I like to send and receive “snail mail”.
  • Make cards or buy recycled cards.
  • Purchase cards from a charity organization. At least your money is going toward supporting a cause.  I ended up purchasing recycled card from the American Cancer Society this year because I didn’t have enough cards left from last year to make anything.
  • Remind the recipient to re-use or recycle too!

TREES –>

  • Buy a live tree.
  • Buy a cut tree over a fake tree.
  • Recycle when the holidays are over. Waste Management collects Christmas trees from its residential customers. Be sure the tree is cut into three-foot sections and remove any tree stands, nails, tinsel and decorations.  If you can find somewhere that mulches the trees that is the best reusable plan for your greenery.

GIFTS–>

  • Give no-waste gifts.  Support your local community services by giving music or sports lessons, memberships to a gym, concert symphony or museum (Bankhead Theater tickets anyone?), sporting event tickets.  There are free things you can offer such as babysitting.
  • Purchase gifts made of recycled content. Be sure to buy durable, reusable products that will last.
  • Use No-waste wrapping options. Place a bow directly on a gift; put gifts in a reusable bag such as a backpack or purse; or package small, themed gifts in a larger item – such as plates or table service inside placemats or a tablecloth or kitchen utensils in an apron or decorative dishtowel.
  • Make your own wrapping paper.  Use newspaper or magazines, decorating paper shopping bags or cutting pieces from maps or posters. Recycled-content wrapping paper is also available. Save bags and bows to use in the future.
  • Donate old items.  If you receive new items that will replace current possessions, donate them to a local charity.

ENTERTAINING –>

  • Package gifts/food for hosts in a reusable container.  If the item is a gift, place it on a decorative holiday plate, in a washable kitchen container or wrap with a holiday towel.
  • Use washable items.  Utensils, plates, glasses, napkins and table coverings should all be reusable. Decorate with plants (that your guests may take home and plant in their yards as a commemoration of the holiday celebration) or candles. Be sure to have containers available where your guests can put recyclable cans and bottles. If you have leftover food, send it home with your guests in reusable containers or donate it to a local homeless shelter.
  • Compost. Take advantage of food waste recycling services where they are offered.

 Have a Happy and Green Holiday Season!

 

Reference:

1.  Waste management website. Accessed November 30, 2011.  Website address – http://www.wm.com/index.jsp

A Question of Thanks.

“What are you grateful for?”

I’m going to start my patient visits this next week with that one question.

At each patient visit I often ask them what they do, who they live with, do they feel safe and, as an obstetrician/gynecologist, any number of other lifestyle questions about smoking, drinking, drug use, and sexual partners.

Since it is that time of year to ponder those things that we are thankful for, I thought a simple question like this might be a good way to get to know the patient a little better as an individual and what’s important to them.  It may just make those patients who are having a rough time in some area of their lives recognize the positives.

The more I am simply grateful for the little things in my life, the happier and healthier I feel and I plan to see how this reflects on my patients these next few days before Thanksgiving.

Each day, think about the simple things that you are grateful for…not just this time of year but all year.

Christmas Cards vs. Environment

vs. Tradition

My annual tradition is to write my Holiday card and family letter updates the day after Thanksgiving.  In addition to the timing of my writing, I have been choosing a ‘Peace’ theme for the past 7 years on my cards and the last couple years purchasing my cards from UNICEF.  While this year I don’t have the day after Thanksgiving off work, I was still planning to compose that annual letter and write my cards.

With Facebook, Twitter, and E-mail people are more connected now than ever. However, I still find joy in receiving that card from a friend I haven’t heard from in awhile and sitting down to write my letter and cards allows me to reflect on the year, more than I may have otherwise.

With regular questioning and conscious living, I am working to rectify the feeling of constantly producing more waste than is necessary.  I’ve also decided I can’t stop living and doing things that bring joy.

Sure you can e-mail cards but I enjoy using the cards for decorations above my mantle and admit that we receive so few letters via mail anymore, there is something special about opening up that handwritten card and letter.  Not to mention e-mail still requires energy to produce.

In trying to find a reliable statistic for the amount of trees actually destroyed to produce annual Christmas Cards, the numbers are fuzzy.  Hallmark reports that 1.5 billion Christmas cards are sent annually, what that equals in trees I can’t be sure, but it sounds like a lot.  So, now I’m considering my options this year.

The first thing I am going to do is pull my Christmas box out of our shed this weekend and see what old cards and wrapping paper I have and try to re-use them creatively to make my cards this year.  I’ll probably need some suggestions from sites like craftstylish.com.  I’ll have to find envelopes, but I’m sure I can find recycled one’s.  Given my significant lack of time I think I found a version I am going to try and recreate in some way (http://www.homemade-gifts-made-easy.com/handmade-christmas-card-ideas.html).

If my stash of old cards or those sent last year from friends and family aren’t enough to make cards, then I’ll resort to purchasing preferably recycled cards and hopefully, find one that is “green” and supports a good cause.

According to the Greeting Card Association (2011), Americans spend 2 billion annually on Christmas cards.  Imagine what good could be done if a portion of that went to charitable organizations.  The website cardsthatgive.org provides information regarding organizations that sell cards to support a cause.

Plus, I’ll be including a little note at the bottom of my cards that reminds my friends and families to recycle, not just my card but everyday!