Our Low-Impact Christmas

Lately, I've been trying to get in the holiday spirit in this snowless, not-that-cold town. Let me tell you, it's tough. First of all, I wore flip flops to Thanksgiving dinner... can we say "major paradigm shift?" Then, there was the issue of the tree. I'm allergic to cut trees, they make my face melt in boogers. Despite my allergy, we didn't want to buy a PVC-and-lead-laden synthetic Christmas tree.
We were left with quite a dilemma.

I searched online for sustainable alternatives and I found a few possibilities, but none of them seemed right for us. First, there was the giant Christmas tree made of knitted sweater sleeves. Now, I like knitting, but I've already got a few projects on the needles and I can't multitask that well. Then, I found patterns for mini knitted Christmas trees, but we wanted something on which we could string standard size lights. There was also the incredible Mountain Dew Christmas tree, made of more Mountain Dew cans than we could ever drain. Obviously, not a real option for us, though a truly unique recycling effort.

We tried other living tree options: like tiny evergreen indoor shrubs or potted pines, but they cost a good deal more than our budget allows and I have a totally un-green thumb. So, we were left with a potentially evergreen-free holiday.

No, we had to create our own Christmas tree alternative. TheBoy suggested something that I initially shot-down, but which later became our option: a paper tree. I had thought maybe of a hat rack or a ladder (or tripod, which we actually have), but we decided against those, too. A few more soul-searching conversations later, and we had decided to make a brief Target run for some posterboard, green paint, and a paint brush.

We ended up coming home with two neon green posterboards, a bottle of Crayola non-toxic kids' paint, a quality paintbrush, and some pretty candy-cane striped ribbon. Some creative cutting and sloppy brushstrokes produced the proto-tree and some tape, LED Christmas lights, striped ribbon, and a few ornaments gathered up to make a truly festive, sustainable holiday wall ornament.

After I'd finished the tree, I still had some green paint leftover. Following a suggestion that I found on the wonderful internets, I painted our still-fresh Halloween and Thanksgiving pumpkins. After a few more coats, I'll use a pretty silver sharpie to color on some stars and make our previously fall-themed decorations into a lovely holiday bauble. After the holidays, I'll cut the bottoms out of the pumpkins and roast the seeds to make a delicious, edible New Years treat -- I may even wash off the paint and feed the gourd to our pet. I'm sure they'd love the treat!

Aside from the tree, we're trying to lower the impact of our gift-giving. Without skimping on quality, we've been able to produce great gifts for our family and friends. Instead of gifting TheBoy's dad with another worthless golf thing, we all chipped in to buy him a personalized iPod -- something that he'll really use for a long time. For his mother, we found a local-artist-made cheese plate made out of a recycled wine bottle. I knitted up a gift bag in polyester yarn made from recycled plastic bottles. How awesome! For one friend, instead of a lame-o worthless gift, we found him an affordable flatware set to replace his flock of years-old plastic forks. For all our other friends, we're making cookies -- having fun and spending time together, instead of finding them landfill-bound gag gifts. Overall, we've spent this holiday season thinking hard about how useful and loving our gifts will be when bestowed upon our loved ones.

What things are you doing to make your holiday lower-impact?


Abbie said...

I like the green with stars! Maybe I'll do some different colors next year. My Mother in law has all different colored ones and they're really cute.

amanda said...

@Abbie Thanks! They were really fun to make and they really perk up the living room!