Can you believe that the holidays are right around the corner? I know TNACI hasn’t accepted it mostly because of the weather. Usually by now it is cold and crisp in eastern Tennessee. Instead, it has been in the 50s and raining. Despite the warm(ish) weather, we did have a wonderful holiday party last week, full of laughs and funny (some quite strange) White Elephant gifts.
Many of us have our own way of being green during the holidays, and we decided to share some of these ideas with you. How are you eco-conscious during this time of year? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.
Dr. Anna George, Director of TNACI
For a few years now, our family has been celebrating “Homemade Christmas.” With so many talents among us—knitting, drawing, pottery, baking—it just made sense that we should celebrate with our time instead of our wallets. One year, my husband drew a set of fish coloring books for all of our nieces and nephews, and last year I sewed nine pairs of flannel pajama pants for all of the family! What’s really great is seeing what the kids are inspired to make for us—my niece has learned how to knit fabulous scarves, and the boys have made us flour dough sea creatures. Though we still spend some money on our supplies, it’s wonderful not to have a pile of plastic packaging to throw away when Christmas is over. And never underestimate the value of giving away experiences instead of things—taking my husband out for a nice dinner together is much more memorable—and greener—than buying him a new TV.
Kathlina Alford, Conservation Associate
I love to make things for people for Christmas so I try to use items that I find at yard sales, thrift stores or even the trash and turn them into something new. It’s a different kind of recycling! I also like to be creative with wrapping gifts. This year I bought re-usable grocery bags each time I found a cute one and used those in place of gift bags. I also like to wrap gifts in fabric for those of my friends and family who like to sew! For decorating I use clippings from fir trees and holly bushes in my neighborhood to make the house smell good and look festive. We don’t put up a big tree but instead decorate one of my indoor plants. This year we had a Christmas avocado tree!
Ashford Rosenberg, Sustainability Coordinator
The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year! But they can also be the most wasteful. In my family we try to decrease our footprint this time of year. I keep gift bags from the year before and reuse them. I also do a lot of holiday shopping at a used book store here in town. Everyone in my family has strange enough tastes that I can always find a unique, gently used book that will interest them. I have also moved more toward e-cards than paper cards. We either re-use wrapping paper, try to find fun materials to wrap gifts in, or purchase paper made from recycled materials. This year at a Christmas party, instead of buying disposable cups for everyone, we bought red and green plastic tumblers and sharpies so people could personalize their cup and take it home as a party favor.
Sarah Candler, Husbandry Intern
This holiday season, I have downsized the number of lights used in my decorating. Instead of buying all commercial gifts, I have made some of my own as well as purchased many locally made items. Most were wrapped using bows and bags from the previous year. Any bows and ribbons that can be salvaged after opening gifts this year, I will save for reuse next year. I also recycle my Christmas tree every year by mulching it.
Evan Collins, Research Intern
Christmas with my family is a pretty modest affair. A small Christmas tree comprises the extent of our decorations. This helps save time and energy. The main course for the holiday dinner consists of local food, usually a chicken we raised and butchered at home, or locally caught fish for something a little different. Gifts are packaged with boxes and wrapping paper from previous years and saved if possible.