People all around the world are celebrating Christmas in a more environmentally friendly way. Celebrating a Green Christmas will not only help save the environment, it will also save you money. This ebook gives you 50 ways to celebrate a more eco-friendly (and wallet friendly!)
Why Celebrate a Green Christmas?
While we gather with loved ones to celebrate the birth of Christ, we also need to celebrate Creation and our role as stewards of the Earth. God created us as part of nature and gave us the responsibility of caring for all of God’s Creation. Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 states: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”
Our culture and televisions tell us that Christmas is about buying stuff but actually Christmas is about loving others and the promise of love, forgiveness, and grace that the Savior brings. Christmas is an opportunity to live your faith through actions. This Christmas take action to love your neighbor while loving the Earth.
HThis book is a collection of 50 ways you can easily celebrate Christmas in an eco-friendly way. It is organized by topic (gift giving, food, energy, Christmas tree, etc). Feel free to jump around and read the sections out of order.
Do not attempt to put all 50 of these green Christmas tips into practice this year. Going green is not an all or nothing proposition. Adopt a few green Christmas traditions this year and a few more next year. Honestly, I don’t do the greenest version of all the tips in this book but I do strive to make each Christmas a little greener than last year.
Gift Giving, Buy Less Stuff
Quick, raise your hand if you need more stuff in your house. If your house is like mine, you didn’t raise your hand. You only have to watch one episode of the TV show Hoarders to know that many people have a problem with too much stuff in their houses. No, you may not have stacks of newspapers dating back to WWII or a room full of broken garden gnomes but chances are that you could do with a little less clutter in your life. Contrary to what shopping culture and TV tell us, celebrating Christmas is not about buying stuff. Who cares how many shopping days are left before Christmas?
Christmas is about the birth of a Savior and the love that he embodied. So, if upon receiving a Christmas gift you ever thought “where in the world I am going to put this?” or if you would rather focus on loving others than giving them junk, then enjoy the following tips on on how to give less stuff while still celebrating the season of giving.
Give a donation in someone’s honor.
This year give someone a donation to a nonprofit organization. You will not only be avoiding purchasing a manufactured item, you will also be supporting the work of an organization striving to make the world a better place. What’s more Christmassy than that? Donate to a charity that you know your loved one is passionate about. You may already know a specific nonprofit project your loved one is involved in or a cause they are passionate about. If not, a simple web search for “nonprofit” and one of their passions should yield some useful results.
Another approach is to narrow your donation by location. Find a charity that does good work in an area of the world that the gift receiver loves. For example, your loved one may have celebrated their honeymoon in Mexico, find a charity that helps the local population. Or, find a charity that is based in their hometown or the town in which they currently live.
Below you will find a few examples that I have personally used. Give them a try or find a nonprofit on your own through internet research and discussions with friends.
Heifer International. Heifer International’s mission is to “work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.” The project was started by founder Dan West who had a revelation while serving portions of powdered milk to orphans and refugees of the Spanish Civil War. He realized that the people needed the cow, not the milk. They needed a heifer.
Now Heifer International gives not only heifers but also sheep, chickens, ducks, pigs, honeybees, and much more. The animals (or shares of animals, a whole heifer costs $500 US dollars) are given to families in struggling communities around the world. The families not only receive the animals, they also receive training to best utilize that animal. For example, even if you are hungry a heifer should not be used for meat right away. First use it for milk, muscle (to haul stuff and plow land), manure (makes great fertilizer for growing food!) and eventually you can use it for the meat. The benefit of the animal gift and training is compounded because each recipient family pledge to pass on the gift to another family in their community. When the heifer has a calf, that calf is given to another family.
I first learned of Heifer International as a child at our church’s alternative gift market (more on that in a minute). As a kid I thought it was great fun to give four chickens in honor of my great Aunt and Uncle each Christmas. For more info visit Heifer.org.
Alternative Gift Markets. Churches have been encouraging people to give alternative gifts for a long time. Many churches host Alternative Gift Markets during the season of Advent to sell honor cards for charities. You “purchase” a donation that will be sent to a nonprofit agency and in return you receive a nice card that you can send to a loved one that says something like “a donation has been made in your honor to…”. Alternative Gift Markets often include both local and international nonprofit projects as well as handmade fair-trade crafts. You can easily find a church near you that is running an Alternative Gift Market this year. Make plans to attend and shop.
Kiva. Kiva is a micro-finance lending organization that lets the gift recipient pick which project to lend money to. Kiva is a person-to-person microlending website which enables individuals to lend money to entrepreneurs around the world. The loans are used to start or expand very small businesses. Often the loans are for entrepreneurs who live in areas of the world where they do not have access to other fair loan agencies. Kiva makes it easy to search or browse through entrepreneurs’ profiles. You can easily narrow your search by gender, country, sector (agriculture, health, education, etc), or attribute (green, youth, fair trade, etc). Loaning helps people reach economic stability and independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive emailed journal updates and track repayments as they are made. The minimum loan amount is only $25 US dollars. Your $25 will be bundled with loans from other people and then disbursed to the entrepreneur. The loans are repaid in very small monthly payments to the gift receivers Kiva account. Then, when they get all their loan money back, they can choose to re-lend it to someone else in need (doubling the impact of your gift!) or they can withdraw the cash knowing that it has already helped someone.
Over the last several years, my wife and I have made 113 twenty five dollar loans through Kiva, most by re-loaning the credit after it has been repaid.
We often give Kiva cards as gifts to friends and family for Christmas or birthdays. I encourage you to learn more at Kiva.org.
Want to see more? The entire book is available at http://www.amazon.com/How-Have-Green-Christmas-ebook/dp/B00AIEPL0M
This article was included in the September 2013 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By Henry Owen