Top 5 holiday tips

You too can celebrate the season in eco-friendly style

Ho, ho, ho!

Ho, ho, ho!

Welcome to Green Town, a new column by Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess, which will rotate every other week with Green House, her bi-monthly musings on SN&R’s green building project.

I could obnoxiously suggest that the best eco-friendly way to celebrate the holidays is to simply refrain from buying gifts, to cease all consumption because of the tons of energy and water wasted in the production of our material world. But I won’t, because I love the holiday season and believe we should indulge in all of its glorious traditions! Just in a responsible way. So, here are five eco-ways to celebrate the holidays:

1. String energy-efficient Christmas lights on your house and tree. Use low-wattage LED holiday lights, which are available in vibrant colors and use 80 percent less energy than conventional lights. If using incandescent lights, use ones with mini transformers in each light string’s plug, causing them to operate at a cooler temperature and use less electricity. Unplug lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

Speaking of lights, you know you secretly enjoy driving around bumping Bing Crosby Christmas carols, oohing and aahing over all the lit-up houses in the Fab 40s—carpooling makes this experience more fun and saves gas.

After the holidays, strip your Christmas tree of its lights and ornaments and recycle it at the Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station.

2. Send holiday cards made of 100 percent recycled content. Deforestation is a leading contributor of global warming and habitat loss for animals, not to mention the U.S. paper industry fells 100 million trees annually to supply our paper needs. Recycling 1 ton of paper saves the equivalent of 17 trees, four barrels of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, keeps 60 pounds of pollutants out of the air and saves enough energy to power an average home for six months. The Environmental Protection Agency found that making paper from recycled material results in a 74 percent reduction of air pollution and 35 percent reduction in water pollution than producing paper from virgin materials. When the time comes to pen a beautiful Kwanzaa shout-out, do so on recycled cardstock.

3. Give eco-friendly presents. Give friends a stainless steel water bottle, free of bisphenol A, a toxic chemical used in some plastic products that’s been linked to birth defects in babies and may upset the steroid process in humans.

Buy teenagers Teens Turning Green, a line of personal-care products free of toxic chemicals. The products—liquid soap, moisturizer, face wash, body butter and more—are available at Whole Foods Markets. Or visit the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for natural beauty products, such as face cream by Alaffia, a company that pays fair wages to workers in Togo, Africa, and donates 10 percent of proceeds to community-enhancement projects there.

Support Uptown Liz, a Web site operated by a Sacramento woman that funds charitable causes through the online sale of clothes, jewelry, purses and more. Contribute to Heifer International, an organization that promotes self-reliance by buying livestock—calves, sheep, flocks of chicks, water buffalo—for impoverished families in developing countries. Buy canvas grocery bags for holiday shopping, soy candles for cold winter nights and recycled gift wrap from, a site that gives 25 percent of the purchase price to the Environmental Council of Sacramento.

Give gifts that don’t require batteries. Nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holidays, and if they aren’t rechargeable, they end up being hazardous waste.

4. Green your holiday food recipes.Tis the season for homemade goodies! Use locally grown, seasonal, organic produce in your holiday meals. For instance, instead of blueberries that now come from South America, try grapefruit or oranges. Substitute a pomegranate for a grape. In December, peaches come from outside the United States, so try pears.

Go a step farther and ditch meat for the month, sacrificing turkey, ham and beef tamales for Tofurky sandwiches (or some much tastier vegetarian food). If you truly possess the holiday spirit, you’ll consider the suffering of animals in factory farms and the environmental havoc wreaked by the meat industry.

5. Volunteer for a local environmental nonprofit. Volunteer for the Environmental Council of Sacramento, Save Our Sandhill Cranes, Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen, California Native Plant Society, Sacramento Audubon Society, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates or some other cool organization. It will give you that warm, fuzzy feeling all of us crave, even if you’re too embarrassed to admit it.