Being Green – Celebrating the Holidays

Hi Folks:

Been a little quiet in our corner of the ‘net lately for several reasons, but partly because of the holidays.  There are so many different traditions and celebrations this time of year it’s hard to count them all, from the Islamic New Year (a different calendar, but corresponding to Dec. 7 this year) to Kwanzaa to Hanukkah, Solstice, Saturnalia and Christmas.  I’m sure there are others.  Here in the northern hemisphere we’re coming up on the shortest day of the year, while our neighbours south of the equator will be celebrating their longest.  All in all, however, while it’s certainly possible to get caught up in the mad scramble for presents, holiday deadlines, office parties, too much traffic and too many people crowding into too many stores, I also see more people being kind, open, polite, generous and giving.  It’s something that was written very well in a story called ‘Patience Pants‘.  This time of year we are reminded that no matter where we live or how we live, we are all part of a larger brother/sisterhood of humans and beyond that to being a part of the intricate web of life on this little blue marble we all share.

I’m not going to overemphasize being ‘green’ this holiday season; you’ve heard it all before.  Cut down on spending, don’t wrap presents in paper and ribbon that must be carted to the curb after the holidays, use LED lights rather than incandescent ones, travel locally and buy locally if and where you can…  I did want to take a moment, though, to tell you about ‘G.L.I.T.T.E.R.’

To understand GLITTER, however, we need to start with ‘F.R.E.D.’  Obviously an acronym, FRED was our Christmas tree when Marcia and I got together in our first apartment (today is our 193rd Monthaversary of being a couple, but that’s another story).  FRED (Fantastic Reusable Environmental Decoration) was a Norfolk Island pine tree in a pot, and was about 3 ft. tall when first arriving at our place.  We put some small lights and decorations on FRED, and as the years went by FRED grew from about 3 ft. to over 10 ft.  By that time we were living in a place that had 15 ft. cathedral ceilings in the living room, so in addition to FRED we had a yucca and a schefflera that were in the same height range.  We also had a hibiscus in another room that was basically an 8 ft. diameter ball.  When it came time to move again, there was no way we could move those four big plants in the middle of an Ontario winter.  We made enquiries about donating them to a local arboretum, but the woman who was moving in to our place said, “I’d be honoured to look after your plants.” and I thought, “That’s the right answer.”

After FRED we got FREDERICA (Fantastic Reusable Environmental Decoration, Ever Ready In Christmas Attire) and FREDERICA traveled with us for a few years before going to friends after yet another move.  When we moved to Ontario’s near north and settled in at the lodge we were going to be managing we got FREDDY (Fantastic Reusable Environmental Decoration, Dressed for Yule), and when we left the lodge and Ontario (again, in January) for BC, FREDDY stayed behind.  We moved to Kelowna ‘temporarily’, and stayed three years.  Once settled into our apartment we got FREIDRICH (Fantastic Reusable Environmental Inspiration, Dressed Richly In Christmas Harmony).  When you look like me (long white hair and beard), and especially if you own a red capote – when carrying a Christmas tree home in your backpack you get a lot of smiles and waves and honking car horns.  FREIDRICH was with us for three years, and grew from about 3 ft. to almost 6 ft. in that time.  You can see the edges of FREIDRICH’s branches here:


Well, when we moved here to the island, FREIDRICH went to live with a neighbour, so last year we got GLITTER (Glorious Little Inspirational Tree, Twinkling and Ever Resplendent).  GLITTER is the smallest of our Christmas trees, coming home in a  6″ pot and barely a foot tall.  GLITTER was so small that last year the only decorations we put on were origami cranes made from different colours of paper.  In the past year GLITTER has been moved into a new pot and is now approaching 2 ft. high.  Here’s an image of our current Christmas tree (and some photos of grandkids):

our Victoria Christmas tree

There’s a lot of debate over whether one should buy a real Christmas tree or an artificial tree.  Those in favour of the artificial tree suggest that it’s better than cutting down a tree every year for a few weeks’ worth of enjoyment, and that after the holidays most trees end up in landfill.  Those in favour of real trees counter that artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC (a known carcinogen) and since most artificial trees are made in China, they can also contain lead.  Most real Christmas trees sold today are grown on tree farms, and while growing they sequester CO2 and give off oxygen.  I leave the choice up to you, but if you do buy a real tree, check to see if your municipality has a collection/ mulching program where the tree can be ground up and reused rather than being discarded.  Another alternative is to ‘rent’ a live tree in a pot for the holiday season.  Such companies provide live trees in December and collect them in January.  In the spring the trees are planted out, either in your own yard or in a nearby park.

Or you may wish to look into getting your own FRED, FREDERICA, FREDDY, FREIDRICH or GLITTER.  If you do you will have to be careful about the weight of the ornaments and put heavier ornaments closer to the trunk.  LED lights are not only more energy efficient, they also give off substantially less heat than incandescent bulbs and won’t burn the needles.  An extra dose of fertilizer wouldn’t hurt either, and a little loving attention goes a long way.  FRED tolerated being decorated every year, but every January FRED would drop some branches, probably in protest.  Celebrating the holidays with a live tree involves more care, but the payoff comes with having a living plant to share your home for the entire year.

Oh, as you make your holiday plans for this year you may also wish to consider: 10 Wacky Christmas Traditions From Around the World.

Okay, the links for this week include:

Whatever your holiday traditions, we pass along our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season to you and those close to you from Marcia and me!


P.S. As writers, both Marcia and I appreciate books. If you’re looking for a gift for someone, we can recommend both “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World…One Child at a Time” and “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace through Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by Greg Mortenson of the Central Asia Institute. They chronicle a multi-year journey, beginning with Greg finding himself lost and alone in the mountains of Pakistan after a failed attempt to climb K-2, and a promise that has lead to building schools in the poorest and most remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Education truly is the key to creating lasting, peaceful change. We also suggest, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope“, a story about William Kamkwamba and the wind turbine he designed and built for his family’s home in rural Africa. William also did a TED talk, here: William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed the wind.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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