Forget about a white Christmas. We at PBS Parents are dreaming of turning the holidays green by making choices that help the earth without sacrificing comfort and joy.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Years or other winter holidays, start some of your own seasonal traditions that help children become more conscious consumers who respect their planet. Because piles of gifts, festive decorations and a whirl of activities can overwhelm young children, keeping things simple can help your family as well as the planet. Taking the time to reflect and appreciate will make the season more meaningful for the entire family.
Give Gifts of Time
The holidays are an opportunity to teach children that the best things in life aren’t things. Instead of offering kids lots of plastic toys that will break before the New Year, give them vouchers for family activities, like trips to the park or family game nights. Teach kids that giving gifts of helping and patience can make the season more meaningful for all.
Consider suggesting activity gifts, like cooking lessons or skating trips, to relatives who ask for gift ideas. Offer those relatives similarly meaningful presents, like a private piano concert from your young musician, an original poem or free babysitting for relatives who have young children of their own.
Give Gifts from the Heart
The best gifts come from the heart, not the mall. If your child wants to give gifts to friends and teachers, help her prepare simple crafts like ornaments, a snow globe, or other handmade gifts. You can even make favorite recipes like holiday bark or cookies to give as a thoughtful hostess gift. Shop online for those items that you need to purchase from stores to avoid that time and aggravation of extra car trips at this busy time of year.
Deck the Halls Naturally
When it comes to holiday decorating, remember that more than your tree can be green. Rather than buying expensive ornaments, take your kids on a hike to collect pinecones and boughs for garlands and table arrangements.
You can also raid the kitchen for ornament ideas. Tie cinnamon sticks together with red ribbon or string popcorn and cranberries on thin thread for festive décor (the later can serve as bird food when the holidays are over). Gingerbread cookies and candy canes also do double duty as edible decorations.
Recycle the Wrapping
No need to spend lots of money buying fancy wrapping paper this year. Cut-up brown paper grocery bags or simple brown packing paper tied with raffia and a bit of holly or other greenery can make a striking present. Children can draw or stamp their own designs on the brown paper for a whimsical custom touch. Recycled funny pages from the newspaper, an old map or sheet music can also make great gift wrap.
You can even turn the wrapping into a part of the gift. Rather than buying a paper gift bag, use a reusable shopping bag for a gift that keeps on giving. Wrap a nice bottle of wine in a pretty tea towel or scarf for an elegant hostess gift. A festive reusable cardboard box or cookie tin is another type of wrapping that lasts long after the holiday is over. Instead of disposable plastic curling ribbons, choose small reusable baubles like hair barrettes, key chains or costume jewelry to dress up your packages. Encourage children to make their own gift tags out of scrap paper or fabric.
Light Up the Holidays with LED Bulbs
A new generation of holiday lighting uses far less electricity than the strands you grew up with. LED lights are ultra-efficient, so make the switch for a greener holiday. Because of the energy savings, you’ll eventually recover the cost of the new strands. And remember that less is more when it comes to holiday decorating — no need to cover every surface with bright flashing lights.
Freshen the Air Naturally
Rather than buying artificial air fresheners that often contain harmful chemicals, make your house smell good the old fashioned way — with hot mulled cider, evergreen boughs, fresh apples and cinnamon sticks. Of course, the smell of cookies baking is another unforgettable scent that beats anything you can buy in a can.
Consider Alternatives to Traditional Holiday Cards
Save money and the environment with the 21st century version of holiday cards: e-greetings. Friends and relations will enjoy seeing photos of your growing children in a festive frame and you’ll enjoy saving on postage. Kids may want to send their own cards to friends, featuring favorite characters like Maya and Miguel , theCyberchase Gang, or Arthur.