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It is easy being green for the holidays

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Ann Fiore
December 12, 2007
— It's a little hard to preach about global warming when you've got snow on the ground.

Still, the holidays are a great time to think about the Earth.


The Internet abounds with advice on how to conserve energy, create less waste and even plant a Christmas tree or two.


And because this time of year is busiest for landfills, there's no better time to give the Earth a present. In the process, you'll give creative presents that make others happy, too.


These ideas were offered by the folks at Basics Cooperative in Janesville; Mandy Bonneville, city of Janesville assistant operations director; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Treehugger.com, and the book "Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are," by Robert Lilienfeld and Dr. William Rathje.


Gift and card giving


-- Recycle your Christmas cards if you exchange among friends. Not only can a friend enjoy your holiday greeting, she also can see what you wrote last year to another friend.


"After a while, the card runs out of room and becomes a keepsake," said Fred Larson, operations manager at Basics.


-- Give the gift of experience, such as play or museum tickets; a gift of service, such as baby-sitting, or a gift of charity, such as a llama or sheep.


-- Choose "recycled" gifts from a second-hand or consignment store, or make gifts yourself.


-- Buy only for the kids, not the adults.


-- Save gas by shopping locally or online. If you're driving around, try to consolidate your shopping trips.


-- Look for quality gifts: wooden toys that last a long time, fair trade items and candles made from soy.


-- Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, such as a book about making crafts from reusable items, cookbook for leftovers, reusable tote bags.


For the kids

-- When buying electronic toys, remember to buy rechargeable batteries.


-- Instead of wrapping the kids' gifts, hide them and plant clues about their location. That makes the kids' search into a treasure hunt.


-- Get creative. Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box; tools and gadgets make an idea box for a young inventor.


Waste not

-- Wrap packages in reusable gift bags. Hannah Hollingsworth of Basics wraps presents in old road atlas pages.


-- Use biodegradable gift tags. Basics sells tags made out of pressed cotton that contain wildflower seeds, which can be planted in spring.


-- Buy recycled wrapping paper or use paper without a metallic sheen or film. It has a better chance of being recycled.


-- Call recycling centers to see if they'll accept tissue paper and nonmetallic wrapping paper. The city of Janesville's recycling program accepts newspapers, magazines, phone books and catalogs—not wrapping paper, Bonneville said.


-- Make the wrap part of the gift: Put cookies in a flower pot or hide jewelry in a new pair of gloves.


Reuse and recycle

-- Get a tree that can be planted or mulched afterward, or buy an artificial one that you'll use again.


Janesville residents who want their Christmas trees recycled must bring them to the compost site and demolition landfill, Bonneville said. Trees left at the curb often contain leftover tinsel and lights, and they are taken to the landfill.


-- Compost your food waste. Fruits and vegetables and their peels, pits and seeds make great natural fertilizer.


-- If you buy new electronics, donate or recycle your discarded electronic items. When you're shopping, find out if the manufacturer has a "take back" program for old equipment. The EPA Web site also offers an "electronic performance environmental assessment tool" to help consumers compare electronics' environmental performance. Visit www.epeat.net.


Home sweet home

-- Save gas, cut carbon emissions and boost your local economy by staying home for the holidays.


But if you choose to travel:


-- Use electronic tickets when booking transportation. They generate less waste and cost less to replace.


-- Ensure that your vehicle is "road-ready" by properly tuning your engine and inflating your tires to help save gas and money.


-- Contact your newspaper publisher to ask about stopping your subscription while you're away. Or ask if you can donate the newspapers to schools or other organizations.


-- Ask about alternative fuel vehicles when renting a car.


-- Stay in hotels that operate in environmentally friendly ways. Visit www.greenseal.org or www.greenhotels.com.

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