I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

How do we live into the call to be good stewards of creation during the holidays, when our culture is focused on excess consumption? Old habits can be hard to break! Fortunately, a few years back Charlene Hosenfeld wrote Eco-Faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations.

Below we reprint several pages of tips and resources for a green Christmas. Order or download your own copy of this fantastic resource from UCC Resources. It makes a great Christmas present!

Facts

  • Christmas holidays for many have turned into times of excess—excessive buying, eating, drinking, stress, packaging, wrapping, and waste.
  • According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board:
    • An extra million tons of waste is generated each week in the United States between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    • Tens of thousands of miles of ribbon are discarded each year—more than enough to tie around the Earth.
    •  Increased pollution is generated by extra and often excessive use of electricity for lighting, decorations, cooking, and driving.
    • Increased paper use (for wrapping and cards) means more trees are cut down, more air and water is polluted, and more toxic waste is generated in the manufacturing process.
    •  As people of faith, we can do better—both spiritually and ecologically.

Actions

  • Create a focus on greening the holidays through related sermons, prayers, newsletter articles, and Advent activities.
  • As a congregation and individuals, be conscious consumers: consider what you buy, where it came from, and its current and future impact on the planet.
  • Decorate the sanctuary with greens and with fewer or no extra lights.
  • Decorate the Christmas tree without using strings of lights, or use LED lights (which use 90 percent less electricity than like-sized incandescent bulbs).
  • Have a preholiday fair trade fundraiser selling coffee, tea, cocoa, olive oil, vanilla, candy, and handicrafts.
  • Switch from petroleum-based candles to ones made of beeswax, soy, or other vegetable wax.
  • Recycle Christmas trees for mulch.
  • To green their personal holidays, encourage members to:
    • Give handmade gifts.
    • Help children make gifts.
    • Buy locally made items.
    • Avoid excessively packaged items.
    • Give gift certificates for their time, energy, and talents.
    • Give tickets to a play, concert, or movie.
    • Give gifts that are durable and will be long-lasting.
    • Take canvas or other reusable bags to the store when you shop; avoid plastic bags.
    • Send tree-free paper cards, or ones made of 100 percent recycled paper, preferably printed with soy or other vegetable-based ink.
    • Wrap gifts in recycled materials such as old maps, newspaper comics, wallpaper samples, old sheet music, and out-of-date calendar photos.
    • Wrap gifts in cloth napkins, kitchen towels, or handkerchiefs so the wrapping becomes part of the present.
    • Wrap and tie packages with reusable ribbon, fabric, raffia, or yarn.
    • Make cloth gift bags and reuse them year after year for decades.
    • Use flowers, pine-cones, greens, herbs, or other natural package decorations.
    • Pack gifts to be mailed using real popcorn or biodegradable corn starch packing material instead of polystyrene “peanuts.”
    • Give solar-powered radios, flashlights, and cell phone chargers.
    • Make gift tags from last year’s cards.
    • Give memberships or donations to local, national, or global social and Earth justice organizations.
    • Decrease holiday waste, stress, and spending.
    • Increase:
      • time spent with family and friends
      • gifts of energy, time, and talent
      • volunteer work
      • donations
      • singing
      • praying
      • thoughtfulness
      • compassion
      • loving kindness
      • Earth-friendly practice

Resources

  • California Integrated Waste Management Board; 1001 I St., P.O. Box 4025, Sacramento, CA 95812-4025; (916) 341-6300; www.ciwmb.ca.gov. This is the state agency that oversees, manages, and tracks California’s 92 million tons of waste generated each year. Find holiday waste reduction tips at www.ciwmb.ca.gov/PublicEd/Holidays.
  • Center for a New American Dream, 455 Second Street SE, Suite 101, Charlottesville, VA 22902; (301) 891-3683; www.newdream.org/holiday. “Simplify the Holidays” offers holiday tips and resources, creative and eco-friendly gift ideas, tips on organizing an alternative gift fair, printable “Gift of Time” cards, and a free downloadable brochure. Their motto is “More Fun, Less Stuff!”
  • The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists, by Michael Brower and Warren Leon (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999). This practical guidebook of information helps consumers set priorities regarding their purchasing actions based on analyses of the relative negative impact of various consumer decisions.
  • Environmental Defense Fund, 257 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10010; (800) 684-3322; www.edf.org. This website provides many suggestions for greening the holidays. Search “holidays” from the home page.
  • Reduce.org, www.reduce.org. This is a resource-packed website of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Click on “At the Holidays” for environmentally friendly holiday ideas.
  • Shopping with a Conscience, by Duncan Clark and Richie Unterberger (New York: Rough Guides, 2007). This book offers useful information for consumers who want to learn how to align their purchases with their values.
  • Treehugger, www.treehugger.com. This website aims to be a “one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information.” Search “Green Gift Guide” from the home page.
  • Use Less Stuff, www.use-less-stuff.com/ulsday/42ways.html. This website provides a checklist of “simple things you can do to reduce waste while you eat, drink, and make merry this holiday season.”
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Solid Waste (5305P), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460;  www.epa.gov/wastes/wycd/funfacts/winter.htm. This EPA website offers tips for “Reducing Holiday Waste.”
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CONTACT INFO

Ms. Meighan Pritchard
Minister for Environmental Justice
United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
216-736-3722
pritchardm@ucc.org