Monday, December 23, 2013

A Green Christmas and a Sustainable State of Mind

The holiday season is here and many of us are making more responsible choices, however, while personal actions are critical, this time of year is also a wonderful opportunity to green our consciousnesses. While we all must strive to reduce our energy consumption and eliminate the waste we produce, there is a psychological dimension to environmental stewardship that may not be so obvious.

People who are interested in being more environmentally and socially responsible do a host of things at Christmas time and throughout the year. 


When it comes to decorations, they use natural materials like organic cotton and sustainable wood. They avoid plastic containing PVC and toxic chemicals like phthalates, as well as decorations that contain lead and mercury.

Gift Wrapping

They are recycling their wrapping paper or using newspapers, old tin boxes, cloth, and brown paper. Their gifts are tied with string or wire instead of disposable ribbon. They use natural adornments for gifts like evergreen branches, pine cones and cinnamon sticks. Perhaps they even give gifts that do not require wrapping paper at all.


They are giving out electronic cards instead of paper cards or if they do give paper cards they make sure it is 100 percent recycled.


They are using lead-free low energy LED lights that conform to RoHS standards and they put them on a timer so that they are not on any longer than they have to be. They are not trying to win awards for lighting displays that consume enough energy to power a small village.

Christmas Trees

They are responsibly sourcing their Christmas tree. If they use a fake tree it is made from polyethylene (PE) plastic. If they are buying a real tree it is a living tree that can be transplanted outside or it is responsibly farmed and when they are done with it they are using it for mulch rather than throwing it into a landfill.


They avoid candles that have synthetic fragrances and petroleum-based products, which emit toluene, benzene and alkenes. They use candles that are made with safe alternatives like beeswax and soy.


They are looking for more responsible gift options. When giving electronics they make sure it is from environmentally concerned companies with a take-back program. They avoid toxic toys, and they try to choose those that are made from natural sources like sustainable wood and organic cotton. They buy responsibly produced non-toxic clothing and they avoid toxic personal care products.


They are choosing healthy antibiotic free organic foods, like humanely farmed, organic chicken and turkey and they are minimizing waste by never making more than they will consume. They may even buy from responsible independent poultry farmers.

While it is entirely laudable that we should be mindful of our choices when it comes to decorations, gift wrapping, cards, lights, Christmas trees, candles, gifts and food, we should also be acutely aware of how our state of mind contributes to or detracts from the world we are trying to create.

In addition to all we do, Christmas is a great time to engender hope for the future. People do not respond to negativity and only a positive attitude can induce the changes we need to see. We must replace well warranted pessimism with the faithful belief that we can change our current environmentally destructive trajectory.

Christmas is also good time to ask ourselves how we foster family traditions that communicate the value of the natural world to our loved ones and especially to the children in our lives. An important part of this involves cultivating a deep and abiding gratitude for nature.

The best part of the holidays comes from being with family and close friends. The love that we feel for those that we care about should be the guiding force informing our attitude, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

We must inhabit the change we seek, not only through our actions, but in our thinking and in our efforts to share the notion of environmental stewardship with others. We need to acknowledge and communicate the fact that this planet is not ours to abuse, we merely borrow it from future generations.

May we renew our commitment to act with the planet in mind this Christmas, but let us also strive for a sustainable state of mind that informs our actions all throughout the year.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

Related Articles
Green Market Oracle's Gift Guide: A Summary of More Responsible Gifts
Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Christmas Lighting
Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to the Traditional Christmas Tree
Black Friday Purchasing Behaviors: Shopping Locally and Learning from the Great Recession of 2008
Infographic - Thanksgiving: Staying Within 100 Miles and Other Tips from Sustainable America
Video - How Sustainable is your Christmas?
Electronic Receipts are Convenient and Save Trees

No comments: