V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
I'm dreaming of a green Christmas

Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, December, 2007.

I already have my two front teeth.

I wouldn't know where in my home I'd keep a partridge in a pear tree.

Depending on who you ask, I could very well get nada for Christmas since there have been times this year when I ain't been nothing but bad.

And as for gold, frankincense and myrrh, I'll pass on the latter two, but all gold donations can be made out to Attention: Vivian Song, that's Vivian with an "a."

'Tis the season to be merry, yes, but 'tis also the season when normally level-headed Canadians are roped into believing that the electronic, plastic, yodelling pickle in the store window would make a perfect Christmas gift. (And no, I will not tell you where to find this.)

The holiday season produces more waste than any other time of year -- excess packaging, wrapping and useless gifts stashed at the back of closets across the country.

Like the gag-gift industry which makes plastic pickled vegetables sing, (so unnatural and should be outlawed) the ritual of gift giving will never die.

But this year, Green Planet offers up a few holiday tips and gift ideas that will at least make for a Green Christmas.

Give a gift you know will be used, advises Kara DiCamillo, gift guide editor for treehugger. com. Tickets to sporting events and movies, for example, don't have to be wrapped and are consumable gifts. Foods, restaurant gift certificates and homemade coupons offering babysitting and cleaning services are sure to be used instead of gathering dust.

"One of the best gifts is a gift certificate," she added in a phone interview from Rhode Island. " People can pick out a gift they really want as opposed to giving them something they'll just throw away."

If you're dreading the crush of Christmas shopping, a more sustainable way to shop is to go online, says Shelagh McNally, editor of greenlivingonline.com.

"Online shopping is the green way to go. You save energy by shopping online," she said from Montreal.

Stores require a physical presence -- they have to be heated, lighted, peopled with staff, and products have to be shipped to the store.

But while online shopping also entails shipping, the item comes from a central warehouse, and some couriers use sustainable modes of transportation if they're not shipped by air, McNally explains.

Last week, ClickGreener Inc. launched a new Canadian website that will donate 51% of their referral fees to environmental groups such as WWF-Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Tree Canada and Carbonfund.org. The site is a portal to 140 retailers across the country who pay Clickgreener if a consumer makes a purchase through their site.

"We're targeting the "light greens" who make up 70% of the people in Canada," president Owen Ward said.

"We want to plant the seed in Canadians and tie consumption to the environment. No matter how hard you try, people are going to buy things that aren't green. This is a way to make things a little bit greener."

This year Tree hugger also added a new category to respond to the growing demand among new parents.

"A lot of young couples with babies are doing the research and want to lead sustainable lifestyles," DiCamillo said.

Items such as the orbit infant system are listed for being "sustainable by design," a multifunctional product that grows with the child as a stroller and car seat.

Meanwhile, legacy gifts are becoming increasingly popular among the baby boomer generation, those who already have everything.

"It's not popular with the young kids but it's popular with people 60 and older. The idea is to give a donation to a cause they care about and buy a part of a coral reef or part of a rainforest," McNally said.

As for me, though I love Christmas as much as the next gal, I will confess I hold an unofficial membership with the non-fictional SCROOGE: Society to Curtail Ridiculous, Outrageous and Ostentatious Gift Exchanges.

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·  Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the gifts for a treasure hunt.

·  Avoid buying wrapping paper, instead, wrap using old maps, comics, decorative paper bags, or tea towels.

·  Give a child a wind-up toy that uses no energy or a toy made from natural materials.

·  Instead of sending Christmas cards, send e-vites.

·  Shop at vintage stores and flea markets, since one man's trash is another man's treasure.

·  Skip the petroleum-based tinsel and return to old-fashioned popcorn and cranberry.

·  If you're hosting a party, dish out the china and avoid disposables.

·  Turn down the heat before guests arrive. The body heat of your guests will warm up the room.

·  Turn down the lights and opt for soy or beese wax (not paraffin) candles to set the mood.

·  Shop at your local farmer's market for the feast and serve organic wines and liquors.

·  Donate unwanted gifts to people or organizations who can use them.

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