How to Have a Green Christmas

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Instead of tidings of comfort and joy, Christmas often brings mostly stress and excess — too much food, too much drink, too much spending, and too much waste.

Environmentalists advocate an “eco-friendly” holiday season that will result in a “green Christmas” that will put less strain on Mother Earth, but some of the same choices they suggest can produce a more people-friendly holiday as well, leading to better health for all. While a truly organic Christmas in this day and age may be hard to imagine, it may be possible to take some steps in that direction.

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On the other hand, Lilienfeld says, artificial trees are made with petroleum — a nonrenewable resource — and the manufacturing process often involves dioxins, a highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical that accumulates in the fatty tissues of humans and other animals.

They also lack the evergreen fragrance that signifies Christmas for many people. Buying a fresh tree may eliminate the need for scented candles, incense, and other overpowering fragrances that can bother people with allergies — as well as those without. And because most Christmas trees are grown on farms, harvesting them does not disturb forests.

As for disposing of the trees, the National Christmas Tree Association and Earth 911 operate a , but the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that all turkeys given antibiotics be kept alive long enough for the drugs to pass completely out of the bird’s system.

If you want to make your meal more organic, you might be better off choosing lots of organic vegetables.

When it comes to holiday meals, what’s most important for your health is moderation. If you don’t eat too much turkey — or anything else, for that matter — you’ll probably do more for your health than any free-range or organic bird ever could.

“Most people gain about a pound or more this time of year because of all the holiday food and cheer,” says Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, WebMD’s director of nutrition. “If you don’t want to gain another notch on your belt, try shaving a few calories wherever you can without denying yourself the joy of holiday food and festivities. Moderation is the key. Be picky at the buffet table, forget about second helpings, and when it comes to those decadent desserts, eat only a sliver or share with a friend. Do everything you can to stay active and keep up your exercise to thwart those extra pounds.”

Greener Holiday Decorations: Lighten Your Carbon Footprint

Christmas lights can consume an alarming amount of electricity, as homeowners who lavishly decorate their house and yard discover when inspecting their electric bill for the holiday season. You can lighten your “carbon footprint” — and the burden on your pocketbook — by using light-emitting diodes, or LED lights, instead of conventional holiday lights. LEDs use far less electricity — sometimes up to 90% less — and remain cool to the touch.

The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center this season is ablaze with 30,000 LED lights, which will cut electric consumption from 3,510 to 1,297 kilowatt hours — an amount of electricity equal to what a typical 2,000-square-foot house would use in a month, the Associated Press reports.

Some LED lights for outdoor use also come with solar panels, which reduce the cost of electricity to zero.

Green Christmas: Less Is More

The bottom line, for minimizing stress on the environment and on yourself during the holiday season, is simple — use less stuff, as Lilienfeld’s book advises. Buy fewer gifts, and get by with fewer decorations and smaller meals. That will contribute more than anything to the health of the planet, the health of your body, and the health of your budget.