Green Space: Have a holly, jolly and green holiday season

The holiday season is consistently bemoaned for its consumerism and waste. Metromode explores some simple steps to nip all that in the bud this year.

There is a reason the term Reduce comes first in the trifecta of environmental R's. The more you can reduce, the less you even need to reuse or recycle.

Reduce energy usage. Lights are a part of the holiday season for many people. But do you really need to get all National Lampoon about them?

As for the lights you do string up, make sure they are high efficiency LED lights, now available at most retailers.

Reduce paper usage. Christmas cards are a lovely tradition, but let's face it, they've jumped the shark -- many of them have imprinted signatures and sometimes even serve as de facto birth announcements. In this day and age, even warmer than an email is a phone call. Try it -- a nice conversation or a quick message later, you'll feel seasonally cheery and like you've actually made a connection. If you must mail, use a postcard made of recycled paper for less waste and less weight (added bonus: less postage!).

Another way to reduce paper usage is to stop wrapping presents. Just use the box the present came in, or wrap it in newspaper or brown paper bags.

Reduce travel-generated emissions. It's tempting to head for the hills -- or the beach -- when you get time off work. But one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to forego the holiday plane ride, curl up at home and take some pleasant walks. Start off 2008 with a clear head, less environmental guilt and a fatter wallet.

Plus, let's face it, with the ever-growing insanity of airport security lines and understaffed check-in counters there are far less frustrating ways to spend your holiday season.

Reuse. You already heard one trick: reusing newspaper and the like to wrap presents. Here are a couple more.

Re-gift. The oldest trick in the book, and not just appropriate for white elephants. A never-used, in-the-box item that would be better appreciated by someone else is a perfectly acceptable gift to give. Rather than be ashamed of it, own it. If you get busted, say, "I re-gift all the time! It just makes sense." Period.

Buy second-hand gifts. Already-used gifts do not add to the waste and pollution stream. While certain things should be approached with caution (clothes, for example), a beautiful edition of a favorite book, antique jewelry or an unusual framed print, vase or serving platter are all examples of things that often get better with age.

Recycling. Obviously, recycle all your wrapping paper, cardboard packaging and as much other junk that accumulates over the holidays as you possibly can.

Trees are always a big question, but the answer is not clear-cut. Buying a sustainably-harvested live tree from a tree farm is not the worst thing in the world -- no forests are being harmed. But buying one artificial tree, although it is made from icky petroleum-based products, might save lots of transport emissions if it is used for many years. If you do opt for a live tree, make sure you get it mulched into compost.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
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