Deck the halls; well the dining room actually

Filed in Blog by on December 23, 2008 11 Comments
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christmas tree 2The solstice is the traditional day here at Chez Green for decorating our tree. We celebrate Christmas, but more because we have a child than any other reason. I like the Solstice; there is a great sense of ‘we did it!’ for me with getting to the shortest day of the year. From now on it’s a luxurious ride to Spring time – a time of renewal, rebirth and full potential.

Despite the fact weeds are still growing in the garden and most of our roses are still bursting forth new life rather than resting; which always reminds me global warming is a real thing, I still love this time of year and what could be better than a cold, sunny Solstice to celebrate?

Last year, we were driving behind a van of cut Christmas Trees. Little Miss Green is a bit of an earth mother and wanted to know who had been killing all the trees. Up until that point, choosing a live Christmas tree was our yearly ritual, and she obviously hadn’t figured that trees were cut, bought inside for a few days and recycled at best, dumped at worst.

We bought a tree with roots each year, but never managed to keep it alive. I suspect the roots were treated for exactly this reason – there isn’t much income from a tree that lives for several year, is there?

So last year little Miss green declared that we weren’t going to have a tree. She was very upset that such a wasteful activity took place. Instead we were to cut some branches from our own living trees in the garden and bring them in to decorate. Our magnolia tree, complete with furry buds provided just the branches and we did the same again this year.

As LMG realised, and pointed out to Grandma Green; when you decorate a few branches, you actually get to enjoy looking at the decorations; they don’t get lost in the foliage like they do on a tradiational everygreen tree.Christmas tree 2

At the end of the season, we can saw up the branches, dry them and burn them on the fire next year. No tree has died, there is no waste and we’re all much happier with this arrangement.

It was interesting rummaging through the decorations – tinsel, foil garlands, plastic baubels; all the ‘usual stuff’ that I had never given thought to when I bought it. As long as it was the right colour, that was all I was interested in. Most of the packaging has since been lost, but I can guess that most of it was plastic, which is now sitting in the landfill.

Mrs A, John Costigane and many other zero wasters, are attempting our first zero waste Christmas this year and there is a lot to learn. I’m sure if we could all start from scratch we’d find it easy, but there are skeletons from a ‘less conscious life’ waiting to jump out on us from every direction. John’s found the food side of things particularly difficult, Mrs A has been having some serious epiphanies about what is really important in life, and we’re muddling through with trying to do what we feel is ‘right’ whilst keeping a 7 year old child happy. It’s all good fun!

I think the important thing to remember is that none of us is perfect. We’re all up against the pressures of society and our culture. None of us needs to save the world single handedly, nor indeed can we. We don’t have to do everything, life is about compromise after all and it’s about finding the things that hold real value and meaning for you as an individual. But if each and every one of us does SOMETHING, the collective of our actions IS enough to bring about great change.

The crucial thing is that you feel good about you can do, take responsibility for your actions and sleep well at night knowing you have done your best. If we all do that, just imagine the world we could be living in……


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (11)

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  1. indiebird says:

    Hi Mrs G,
    Loving the xmas branches form your own trees! That little Miss Green is a wise one isn’t she? I don’t think we are anywhere near to zero waste and we are using a plastic tree that we brought last year here just to have a little bit of Christmas here. The symbolism is important for the kids I think of a tree and I am not one for bringing living things into the house only for them to die (I am actually not much of a fan of cut flowers for this reason to be honest) so a real tree just feels sad to me. I feel as though it’s waning energy saps me as I look at it dying… anyway, so this is why we have the plastic one….. It is nowhere near perfect, but it will last many, many years hopefully and then one day there will be no need to have any tree in the house after that. Although the idea of the brnaches that will be used on the fire is such a good one, that I think I would like to adopt that too in years to come!

  2. Rachael says:

    havent been on here for a while….a zero waste xmas is a tough challenge!
    Just came accross a family in the states doing a similar thing….see

    keep it up, love Rachael xxx

  3. Hi Mrs G – I’ve been so busy gadding about, have hardly had time to stop, but it’s lovely to drop by just in time for Christmas. Your branches look so beautiful all dressed up and I just love your post about the Solstice and the pressures that we’re seeing in their truth for the first time. But I have one confession and I’ll have to say it quietly, because I don’t want Little Miss G to get upset. I must confess one of the things I find hard to give up for now is my Christmas tree. It’s the one symbol of Christmas rituals that I adore. However I like to think we buy with care. It’s locally grown on a managed estate, which is 2 miles away from our home, and which probably wouldn’t grow trees if it wasn’t for Christmas. I feel it’s a little gift that’s been absorbing its fair share of CO2 during its growing life and after shredding, will be turned into compost to feed plants. Now before I burst into the song “Oh Christmas Tree” I’d better go…I wouldn’t want to hurt your eardrums with my out-of-tune singing. Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings. Lots of love, Mrs A xxx

  4. Hi Mrs Green,

    The tree branches are an excellent compromise, giving a traditional looking decoration. The tree is definitely part of Christmas.

    The food wrapping so far seems a lot but that is compared to the minimal amounts in normal weeks. Future preparation before the season with family and shopkeepers involved will reduce most of this.

    I would like to echo Mrs A’s Christmas wishes for the Green family. Wishing also a Happy New Year and looking forward to another eventful year.

  5. Greenlady says:

    I celebrate the solstice and not Christmas, but then that’s because I’m pagan ( although many pagans do both or variants ). I honestly think it makes a lot of sense and feels more natural for more people to start celebrating winter solstice – partly because of the shortest day aspect, and partly because of course its a great idea to have a time of relaxation and warmth and cheer in the bleak midwinter πŸ˜‰ but in a lower key, less stressful and less wasteful way than the screaming glittery hysteria of the C word !

    I tend to think of it as a breathing point rather than an easy coast to spring, as we still have the oft harsh months of January and February to get through. But it is a turning point, and a time for warmth, and light, and sharing good food and drink with your kith and kin. And hope, with the anticipation of regrowth to come.

  6. One way we’re reducing waste this year (but sadly, by no means eliminating it) is by using no wrapping paper. I have been collecting the pretty bags that contained gifts for years because I can’t bear to throw them away. Over the past few years, I realized I could not bear to buy wrapping paper knowing it was designed to be ripped off and tossed. Last birthday, I brought out my daughters presents one or two at a time as grandma had sent a lot and everything needed the largest bag, and also, to drag out the process. I kept running off with the bag and getting the next gift for her to “unwrap”. Generous grandma has sent us a very large box this year (contains an electric keyboard – we are so excited) and that is not something that we can wrap so it’s going to be covered in a large cloth! I’ve got a few Starbuck’s brown paper bags as those are lovely quality and rather festive and I’ve also saved pretty ones from places like Oilily. A bit of tissue paper on top and the presentation is beautiful and zero waste (because I save the tissue paper). I get some of these habits from my aunt and grandma, both of whom have long since died. They used to carefully unwrap their gifts and then rewrap them! When I was clearing out their closets before selling their beautiful old house, I found many things still wrapped. Some were never used (some I’d given – oops!) but some were things I saw them rotate out at different times of the year. They certainly got their use out of the boxes and wrapping paper! They lived through any number of wars so they knew about zero waste from a whole different angle.

  7. Fr. Peter says:

    I don’t imagine we will reach a zero waste Christmas Rae, although the Christmas tree we have is a live one and has been inside for 3 years now but is getting rather big! I will have to plant it out in the woods nearby and visit it on a regular basis.

    I also am so pleased that the days are now getting longer!

    may you all have not only a fantastic Christmas but also a happy and healthy 2009, with many thanks and every blessing,


  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Indiebird; we all have to do what feels right for us – there is no right and wrong. Having a plastic tree at least will last for many years and may even get passed onto your children. My first Christmas tree was our old family one πŸ™‚

    Hi Rachael, good to see you again, The 365 days of trash website is wonderful; I’m an avid reader πŸ™‚

    Hi Mrs A. I think there are a few aspects of celebrations throughout the year that really have meaning for us, so we have to find ways around it. For LMG, as I have mentioned before, it’s the crackers. Fortunately we have come up with a solution that still means we have crackers, but they are of a zero waste flavour. Your Christmas tree sounds lovely and satisfies your need whilst caring about the environment – what could be better?

    Thank you John. It’s been a good year, we’ve all had some fun, learned a lot and now Christmas gives us the opportunity to learn even more! Have a great time yourself.

    Hi Greenlady; I loved hearing about Solstice and what it means to you. I have to say it resonates with me much more than Christmas. For now I am happy for LMG to make the choice about when we celebrate next year. She gets quite fixed in her ways and I think it might be hard for her to change, so we will continue to celebrate both days unless she decides otherwise. If I didn’t have a child, it would be solstice all the way!

    Hi Thinking Woman; I love the idea of you running off to wrap things up throughout the day. I too had a Grandma who used to carefully open presents and re-use the paper. We thought she was tight then and used to laugh at her, but some of that gene has reached right through to me and now I truly get it! And like you, we found unused presents when we cleared out her house πŸ˜€
    Have fun with the keyboard!

    Hi Peter, how amazing you have kept your tree indoors for three years! I’ve never heard of anyone achieving that – congratulations! It will be lovely to plant it and go to visit.
    Have a wonderful Christmas too and may all your desires manifest during 2009.

  9. Fr. Peter says:

    Mmm, it did read that way didn’t it… No, I planted it outside between each Christmas.

  10. Poppy says:

    My husband’s grandmother was the butt of the family jokes for many years, both before and after her death for her frugal ways. At this time of year that would have included carefully removing wrapping paper and putting it to one side to iron ready for next year. I think the ironing may have finacially cost her more than buying new paper, but the thought was there.

    She also kept a book in which she logged all her in-comings and out-goings and every item that she bought. That book would tell a few tales now I’m sure.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Peter πŸ˜€ I get it now! Thanks for the clarification.

    poppy, I would love to read through that book too – I bet it could be a best seller now πŸ™‚

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