1) Make your own gifts. We live in a time when folks line up outside Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. hoping to get their hands on the newest talking/singing/dancing/burping/farting toy made in China. In fact, this year people killed to get to the goods, and if that doesn't make you sick to your stomach it's safe to say you have no soul. This year, make the homemade pledge, and check out websites like Etsy for gorgeous gifts that will rival anything you'll find in the department store. You're paying less, and you're buying directly from the seller. If Etsy isn't your thing, give a gift that will make a difference: Donate to a charity, pay for an art class, or offer up your own domestic or handyman skills as a gift.
2) Why pay for wrapping paper? When I remember Christmases of my youth, I remember wrapping paper. My parents used to hold out the garbage bag for us as we peeled open present after present, and I can only imagine how much waste that adds up to over 20 years. This year, nix the wrapping paper in lieu of recycled materials. If you've got a stack of old newspapers, use those. Snazz it up with a bit of twine and some dried berries and you've got a Bohemian-looking package without the price tag. Cool pages torn from art magazines, old vintage T-shirts and reusable shopping bags can also act as gift wrappers.
3) Buy a local Christmas tree. Make sure your local shops have grown the Christmas trees themselves, preferably using sustainable practices. This can help cut down on carbon emissions for tree travel, and you're supporting the local scene. When you're done with your tree, recycle it; trees can be used for compost, mulch and much more. See if your town as a "tree pickup day," and take advantage of it.
4) Switch to LED lights. This should be a no-brainier, but making the switch to diodes will use up to 80 percent less energy. If you're the type to decorate your entire house in blinking lights, switching is the best thing you can do for the planet, and your electric bill.
5) Choose local, in-season foods. When preparing your holiday meals, pick vegetables like beets, carrots, cauliflower, onions, parsnips and potatoes, and if you can, purchase meat and poultry locally as well. If you're having trouble finding an in-season dessert, try a rhubarb pie. Delicious, easy, and locally grown and bought!
6) Entertain yourselves. Instead of turning on the television or going to the movies, try less consumptive family games and activities. Baking, board games and nature hikes can all be wholesome ways to spend the holiday (and holiday vacation) without relying on excess energy for fun.
7) Send e-cards or recycled cards. My parents sent out more than 50 holiday cards this year, and that's one family out of the millions that celebrate Christmas. If everyone decided to nix the usual method of a greeting card, and opted for e-mail or e-cards, we'd make a huge impact. Many suppliers are also offering cards made on recycled card stock, and although they can be a dollar or two more, it's worth it.
8) Give the gift of charity. This year so many families are going without a delicious meal, or any gifts (recycled or not). If you have time to spare, why not take the family and head to a food shelter to hand out lunch? Perhaps you can make homemade cards for those in need, or donate your old toys to families that can't afford presents?
9) Decorate your tree using natural materials. Just like the good old days, you too can dress your tree in strings of dried cranberry, popcorn, dried oranges and fabric snowman you've made yourself.
10) Make a homemade centerpiece using items from nature. Before you go running for the hills at the thought of your dining-room table covered in twigs, think about this: Centerpieces are pricey, and often imported. If you can head into your back yard for sprigs of winter berries, pine cones (that can be dipped in cinnamon oil to scent) and fresh holly, why would you pay for something that's going to croak the day after Christmas? Your all-natural, homemade centerpiece can live long into the winter months.