Here come the holidays, and all I want for Christmas is…less waste and more sustainability. OK, that’s not all I want, but it’s definitely part of my holiday planning. You can probably easily imagine that the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is the most wasteful, but did you know Americans produce a million extra tons of waste during that time? Wrapping paper, packaging, food, travel—it’s enough to get us all on Santa’s naughty list. Rather than just say, “Bah, humbug!” here are some tips to reduce what you produce, along with some mindful giving ideas, including ways to support NRCM!
Green Tip #1 Choose Less—or No—Packaging: One way to cut down on gift-giving waste is to make a point of buying gifts that come with less packaging. If the gift you want or want to give only comes with gobs of cardboard and paper, leave a note on the company’s Facebook wall or Tweet to encourage them to cut back on unnecessary packaging. Chances are, others will join your conversation and you’ll get the company’s attention. Another way is to reduce holiday waste is to give the gift of service—give a coupon for doing errands, housecleaning, or cooking meals, for example.
Green Gift #1 – Books for Bird Lovers: Guess who published a bird book? I did! With my ornithologist husband, who like me is a lifelong birder. Our book, Maine's Favorite Birds, highlights birds you’re most likely to see here in Maine. It includes beautiful water color paintings by a colleague of ours, offers identification tips, some of Maine’s birding hot spots, and more. Many of Maine’s favorite birds visit bird feeders throughout the winter, so now is a good time to get to know them.
Green Tip #2 Enlightened Tradition: For me, it’s just not the holidays without colorful, twinkling lights. Good news! You can have your lights and conserve energy, too, by joining the LED revolution. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, use up to 90 percent less energy than traditional lights and last longer. Depending on how many lights you use, you could save between ten and several hundred dollars during the holiday season.
Green Gift #2 A Year of Beautiful Maine Photos: NRCM’s one-of-a-kind Nature of Maine calendar adds beauty to any room all year long, while highlighting important victories that have helped keep Maine a beautiful place. Every month features a stunning Maine image, and they are all the more special in that they were taken by our members and NRCM staff. They make great stocking stuffers for your Maine family and friends and for those living afar. If you’d like, we’ll send them for you, with a personal note acknowledging your thoughtfulness. Contact us at email@example.com.
Green Tip #3 Skip the Disposables: When hosting your holiday parties, it may be tempting to use disposable plates, cups, and utensils, especially since these days some look quite lovely. Don’t fall for it! Instead, use these opportunities to bring out your special dinnerware. Cloth napkins add warmth and reduce waste—I’ve found some lovely holiday-themed ones at Maine craft fairs and local artisan shops.
Green Gift #3 Dip & Dash with Friends & Family: NRCM’s Polar Bear Dip & Dash offers a post-holiday thrill that will leave you breathless! Although we always have a good turn out, I believe an awful lot more folks out there would take the plunge with us if a friend or family member joined them. One of my favorite stories to tell is when I made this running leap into Casco Bay at East End Beach—on a nine-degree New Year’s Eve Day! The anticipation, the countdown on the beach, the massive group cheer, and the charge into the ice-cold ocean! I’ve got bragging rights for years to come, and what makes this story especially great is that my husband and 11-year-old son went in with me! Surprise a friend or family member by signing them up, along with friends you know would have fun telling their own Dip & Dash story—for the rest of your lives!
Green Tip #4 A Locally Grown Holiday Meal: Whether I’m hosting Christmas dinner or bringing food to a celebration at someone else’s event, I make it as fresh and tasty as possible by buying the food at a local farmer’s market or co-op. Buying locally puts far less climate-changing pollution into Maine’s air and supports your neighbors. I love that my purchases at the Gardiner Food Co-op support a local business in our historic downtown and pumps a few more bucks into the economy where I live. Bonus tip: Don’t buy too much! This handy food calculator can help! If you didn’t get your numbers quite right, be sure to save and reuse and, as a last measure, compost.
Green Gift #4 Check Out Our Online Store: For the t-shirt lover on your list, how about an organic tee with artwork by Maine artist Jon Luoma? Our totes are perfect for shopping or the beach (don’t wait for summer—remember the Dip & Dash!). Mugs. Caps. Take your pick! Proceeds support our work.
Green Tip #5 Buy with the Future in Mind: Don’t add to the stockpile of life by giving gifts that require replaceable pieces or loads of energy. For example, if you give (or ask for) a camera, choose a model that uses rechargeable batteries. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first that I would remember to keep them charged in my new camera, but it’s become routine, and I save money and reduce waste. And if it’s an appliance you’re hoping Santa brings, be sure to request Energy Star brands; they use less energy (clothes washers use about 20 percent less energy and 30 percent less water than other washing machines, for example) and will save you money over the life of the product.
Green Gift #5 Books by NRCM Members: We’re fortunate to have among NRCM members many wonderful writers. Our annual Explore Maine publication features many of them. My family’s own collection includes one of my all-time favorite Maine books, We Were an Island, by Peter Blanchard, Best Seashore Nature Sites by Des Fitgerald et al, Bogs & Fens: A Guide to the Peatland Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada by Ronald B. Davis; a selection of books by Dean Bennett, and every book by Robert Kimber. I'm really looking forward to seeing a new poetry chapbook, "Chance & Choice," by Alice Bolstridge, and a forthcoming book by one of NRCM's founding fathers Bill Townsend. For many great books (and music, and art, and more) by NRCM members, visit www.nrcm.org/our-maine/explore-maine/.
Have a Happy and Sustainable Holiday Season!
—Allison Wells, NRCM Senior Director of Communications & Public Affairs