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Dreaming of a White Christmas? Try a 'green' one instead

Christmas is a holiday full of joy and celebration. It can also be a time of consumption and stress on the environment. However, holiday shoppers and celebrants can easily reduce their carbon footprint this holiday season.

During a season in which more is often more, it can be a challenge to cut back in an effort to protect the planet. But scaling back gifts, food consumption and travel can be effective ways to go green this holiday season.

Buy fewer gifts. Christmas gifts show others how much they are cared about. Some gifts are given out of necessity. Others are more of a sentimental statement. It's easy to express how much you care without overdoing it. Set a limit on the number of gifts each recipient gets.

Organize a "Secret Santa." An easy way to cut down on gifts purchased is to organize a Secret Santa or holiday grab bag. This means that each participating person only has to purchase one gift.

Be smart about wrapping. Chances are there are plenty of items around the house that can be recycled into gift wrapping for presents. Foil, newspaper, comics, magazines, and even brown mailing paper are all good ideas. For those interested in really going green, skip the wrapping all together.

It's okay to make gifts. Handmade gifts are thoughtful and can be cherished for years. Individuals who know how to knit or crochet can handcraft scarves or hats. Make a photo album with scrapbooking supplies. Individuals who are handy in the kitchen may want to give baked goods.

Choose battery-free gifts. Discarded batteries are a plague on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. If batteries can't be avoided, choose ones that can be recharged.

Use LED holiday lights. Keeping lights on for hours on end certainly uses a lot of electricity. Limit the drain on energy by selecting lights that have the least impact. LEDs use less power and last longer than traditional bulbs. When possible, consider the use of solar-powered holiday lights. Plus, don't leave the lights on when no one is home or the household has gone to sleep.

Decorate a live tree. Christmas tree farms are in the business of regularly planting and harvesting evergreen trees. That makes live trees a renewable resource instead of plastic trees made from petroleum. What's more, after the season Christmas trees can be turned into mulch.

Send recycled cards or e-cards. The amount of cards sold in the United States during the holiday season would fill a football field 10 stories high and requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees. Don't send so many cards and choose materials around the house that can be turned into Christmas cards for those that you do send. Also, recycle last year's cards into tags for gifts.

Recycle leftover materials. Chances are large gifts will have enough wrapping paper remaining to wrap other gifts next year. Avoid metallic paper, which is more difficult to recycle. Be sure to break down all cardboard and paper so that it can be put out for recycling.

---Metro Creative Connection