December 5, 2009

MAKING CHRISTMAS GREENer

Feeling guilty about the over consumption of “stuff” that we succumb to every Christmas shopping season? Can we use the words “sustainable” and “Christmas” in the same breath? One eye-opener that I read recently is that, by 2030, China will consume more paper than the world produces today if they follow the current American rate of consumption. Goodbye to the world’s forests.

Then there’s the swelling flow of garbage associated with a throwaway economy. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, garbage haulers lift about 25 percent more trash into their trucks than usual? That’s a lot of packaging, wrapping paper, ribbons, and wasted food going into our holiday “wastelines.”

Green guilt be gone! No matter what you’re shopping for, ask yourself “Can I get it in green?” Not the color of the sweater—but whether it’s made from recycled or organic materials, or by fair trade workers.

Perhaps the recession will influence us to buy less this year. Give at least some green gifts. Here is some additional “food for thought” as you ponder your gift-giving habits.
All that glitters is not gold. Producing the average gold ring results in 20 tons of mine waste, obliterates the landscape, and uses a lot of water in areas where it’s becoming a scarce resource.

Did you know that Tiffany and Kmart have something in common? They are among the 60 jewelry retailers that now support the “No Dirty Gold” campaign for more responsible gold production. Although the No Dirty Gold campaign has been around since 2004, gold mining is the latest “bad boy” to join mountaintop removal coal mining, Hummers, and “blood diamonds” as companies take closer looks at their supply chains.

If gold jewelry is on your Christmas shopping list, see the retailers who are pursuing “cleaner” sources of precious metals at http://www.nodirtygold.org/. Last year, Wal-Mart launched a unique “traceable jewelry line,” called Love, Earth. Local stores confirmed that they carry some of the 32 gold and silver items: “There’s a batch number on each tag with links that lets you trace the jewelry from mine to market.”

Cyber mania — Began this past Cyber Monday and will continue throughout the Christmas shopping season. But stuff matters. Two recent reports by EPA’s Joshuah Stolaroff are turning “going green” on its head. Stolaroff's studies conclude that the stuff we buy and the packaging that comes with that stuff represent our biggest contribution to global warming. Even more than the electricity used by that stuff, or the amount of fuel our stuff burns on the highway! He shows that plastic and the paper in which our products are packaged account for 44 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

His conclusion: choosing to buy products made from recycled materials, repairing items rather than replacing, or choosing to rent what we don't need to buy can be some of the most important choices we make for the environment. Cell phones, appliances, and cars dismantled and remade by the same company that manufactured them? What a sustainable idea! You can see some amazing graphs and the report at http://www.epa.gov/oswer/docs/ghg_land_and_materials_management.pdf.

What can YOU do? Refrain from buying every gadget that comes along. Give at least some green gifts. Buy products made from recycled materials, repair items rather than replacing, or rent what you don't need to buy. If you want a holiday chuckle, ask the jewelry counter clerk for conflict-free jewelry.

Recycle your Christmas tree! Drop it off free of charge by January 31, 2010 at any of the three James City County Convenience Centers. The convenience centers are located at 107 Tewning Road, 1204 Jolly Pond Road, and 185 Industrial Boulevard (Hankins Industrial Park). For hours of operation, please visit http://www.jccegov.com/  or call the Solid Waste Division at 565-0971. Please remember to remove the tree stand and all decorations, including tinsel, before dropping it off.