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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

A guide to a green Christmas

By Jan TenBruggencate

Christmas tends to be greener in the Islands than in temperate climes, but it can also be green in an environmental sense, if you want it to be.

With a couple of weeks to go before the holidays, we went looking for environmentally friendly ideas for dealing with the celebration.

With apologies to merchants, one of the first is to make Christmas gifts yourself: something from the workshop; baked goods; family recipes or grown items, such as a rooted cutting from a favorite plant or a little pot of herbs.

There's a family I know that always wraps the biggest or most oddly shaped gifts in towels or tablecloths instead of paper that ends up in the trash. It's a family tradition, although most of their gifts get wrapped.

My wife and my mom both faithfully oversee the nondestructive unwrapping of packages with the most attractive giftwrap to save the stuff for reuse. They save ribbons, too.

The folks at www.mrscleanjeans.com suggest there are lots of wraps that are more environmentally friendly than acres of new giftwrap.

"One ecological and budget-friendly way to wrap gifts is to use recycled or recyclable materials already in our homes, such as the newspaper funny pages, cloth napkins or scarves," the site says.

An Australian Web site, www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au, recommends consumers avoid store-bought items that clearly have unnecessary or redundant packing materials. The site adds that if overpackaging bothers you, let the manufacturer know.

The consumer newsletter The Green Guide (www.thegreenguide.com) suggests that if you're going shopping, look for organic food. They recommend coffees that are fair trade, organic and/or shade-grown as nice gifts.

A British Web site, www.green-steps.org.uk, recommends that when you're preparing holiday meals, buy as much of your locally produced produce as possible.

Folks in England are working to save trees by recommending people reuse Christmas cards. This year, I ran into a group of friends who send each other cards with the messages on sticky notes instead of written on the card, so the cards themselves can be reused. Everybody's in on it, so nobody gets offended.

If you need to buy cards, wrapping paper or other paper products, try to ensure that it has a high recycled content. The Green Guide says that only 5 percent of U.S.-consumed paper is made from recycled material. If you're buying something made of wood, try to ensure that it's from sustainably harvested timber, says The Green Guide.

Jan TenBruggencate is The Advertiser's Kaua'i bureau chief and its science and environment writer. Reach him at at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.