Enviro Girl’s kids are counting the days until Christmas vacation starts–and she’s gearing up for a week of keeping them entertained on the cheap in an eco-friendly way. She’s also girding her loins to battle the annual onslaught of commercialism. Enviro Girl argues that Christmas shouldn’t be about consumption, materialism, shopping and stress. There’s nothing remotely jolly about huge credit card bills in January and there’s nothing merry about a pile of packaging waste on the curb next to a dead tree glittering with the remnants of tinsel. No matter how you calculate the emissions or the waste, a commercial Christmas isn’t environmentally friendly. Instead of presents, Enviro Girl suggests making your winter holiday season about presence. Instead of getting and giving (which involves shopping and spending), try more doing. Here are several low and no impact ways to enjoy the holidays without busting your budget OR leaving a ginormous carbon footprint in your wake. Enviro Girl’s family enjoys several of these activities every year–activities that highlight the joy of the season and create lasting memories. In fact, at her house, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without doing these things.
1. Attend a holiday concert. Many high schools, colleges and churches put on breathtaking performances–often at no cost to the public. The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life are often performed by local theater groups this time of year, too. Theater is magic, Christmas is magic, combined, they become magic squared.
2. Go to church and participate in the spiritual side of the season–inspiration is free! Many churches offer nativity reenactments and special music services during Christmastime. Enviro Girl and her Christian brethren argue that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” attending a Christmas Eve service provides a great meditation on what Christmas means.
3. Bake cookies. Two weeks before Christmas on a Saturday afternoon, Enviro Girl makes a double batch of sugar cookie dough and her sons enjoy a few hours decorating cut outs. The house smells great, the children are merry and artistic expression reigns! Building a gingerbread house could become part of your holiday tradition if you have the skills and patience (Enviro Girl does not). Any type of communal baking experience bonds families and friends more than a gift exchange ever does.
4. Go caroling. Enviro Girl only does this activity with a large group of people, preferably when she’s had a cocktail or two, because her voice is NOT melodic. But caroling is free and fun and makes the neighbors laugh. You can sing your way through a nursing home, a hospital, or even sing while you ring a bell at a Salvation Army kettle (as Enviro Girl’s sons are prone to doing). Heck, you can even head to a local establishment for some low-cost karaoke fun!
5. Look at the lights. Many cities have light displays, Enviro Girl’s family enjoys one at the Botanical Gardens nearby. Local high schools donate choirs during the event and for a few dollars more her family enjoys a horse-drawn hay ride through the displays. In almost every town there are people taking huge pride in their outdoor light displays. Head out at night and appreciate the artistry.
6. Visit a historical home or museum–usually the exhibitions have a holiday theme during December. This experience can be both educational and entertaining while supporting the local arts scene.
7. Take a hike. Bundle up and take a look at what winter reveals in your area. If you’re lucky enough to get snow, you can cross-country ski or snow shoe. Spot the tracks in the snow, revel in the fresh air, discover the beauty of a winter wonderland.
8. Have a holiday movie night– rent Elf or throw in your beloved copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, pop some popcorn and heat up some cider. Every single person has at least one favorite holiday movie, and it’s a great time to teach kids classic lines like “The Grinch’s heart grew three times larger that day” or “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
9. Hit the local skating rink. The scrape of the blades against the ice, Christmas music flowing through the cheap stereo speakers, families laughing and gliding past at varying speeds–ice skating is great exercise and skate rental is cheap.
10. Decorate a tree outside for the birds–string popcorn and slather pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed. Not only will you give a gift to your feathered friends, you’ll be entertained by the guests in your yard.
This time of year doesn’t have to be about spending, buying, wrapping and fighting crowds. Slow down and enjoy the holidays in a low impact way to maximize your pleasure! Reader, what low/no impact fun do you plan for the holidays? Do you enjoy any of the activities listed above? Anything not included that you’d like to tell us about?