I'm dreaming of a green Christmas

With all the recent talk of “being green” and “going green,” it’s hard not to think about how you can make a difference this holiday season. What does it all mean? Should you start recycling? Buy a hybrid? Figure out what a carbon footprint is and how to reduce yours? Well, let’s start simple with recycling.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, “recycling means separating, collecting, processing, marketing, and ultimately using a material that would have been thrown away.”

They say that’s the reason we should recycle; reducing our reliance on landfills and incinerators, protecting our health and environment when harmful substances are removed from the waste stream and conserving our natural resources, because it reduces the need for raw materials.

Whether you’re celebrating the birth of Christ, the festival of rededication, the Winter Solstice, or family, community and culture, chances are you are going to accumulate some waste this holiday season, much of which can be avoided by your gift-giving choices or — at the very least — you can recycle it when you are done ripping stuff open.

Currently, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority manages more than 144 recycling centers throughout the state, most being within a 5-mile radius of any resident.

Did you know that, in addition to newspapers and cans and bottles, that you can recycle batteries, used motor oil, cardboard, old clothing, shoes, curtains and plastic grocery bags? These are only a few things that the recycling centers accept. For a more detailed list, you can visit www.dswa.com online.

And if driving to a center isn’t for you, you can have curbside recycling come and get your stuff. For $36 for six months, or $6 a month, they will set you up with bags and containers for everything and pick up your recyclables.

Rachel Allen, of Dagsboro gave the curbside recycling service to both her parents and her in-laws as a Christmas gift last year.

“I felt kind of silly, calling them up and telling them I wanted to give my parents recycling for Christmas, but they said that a lot of people were doing it. It was really very easy — they got a welcome packet and everything set up for them.”

“An awesome gift,” added Sherry Stephens, Rachel’s mother and one of the recipients.

Green giftable: Sign someone up for curbside recycling for only $6 a month.

With prices for everything creeping up lately, it’s hard to think about all the people you might be buying gifts for this holiday season without cringing.

Three places that are the ultimate in recycling need not be overlooked as places to shop this season: The Salvation Army in Rehoboth Beach, the new Goodwill store in Millsboro and our very own ACTS on Route 26. You can find everything from furniture, to clothing, to household goods, and baby and children’s supplies.

Barbara Svenson, an avid ACTS shopper commented, “I shop there from a monetary standpoint. It makes me feel good to know that there is plenty of stuff out there that people just don’t want anymore.

“Right now,” she said, “I’m at work in a professional setting and almost everything I have on is from there. So, my outfit cost $2 instead of $200 and nothing was sacrificed. And I take things there as well. It’s really a 360 degree cycle. You buy there and then you bring things back.”

The benefits of shopping thesetypes of stores are twofold: you are buying recycled gifts and you are supporting the Salvation Army and the people they serve, the employees of Goodwill who benefit from their job placement and training programs, and the local needy who are referred by local churches with help with housing, utilities, and other needs.

Green Giftable: Buy someone on your list low-cost clothing, household items, decorations, furniture, etc., while supporting the area’s non-profits and the people they serve. Added bonus: The plastic bags you receive your purchases in are already on their second use — make sure you go home and use it again.

If you want to go a step further and look for “clean” products, Good 4 U Organic Farm on Route 9, outside Rehoboth Beach, offers many to choose from. According to their Web site, “All products we carry have to satisfy our strict criteria for a ‘clean’ product. For example, hydrogenated-oil free, hormone- and antibiotic-free, paraben-free, recycled or minimal packaging, cruelty-free. We proudly support open disclosure on product packaging and labeling and fair trade.”

For closer fair-trade materials, you can shop at Made By Hand in South Bethany. They promote the social and economic development of artisan cooperatives worldwide through fair-trade practices. You can purchase beautiful handmade jewelry, clothing, throws, greeting cards and more.

Another hand-made option is soap from the Soap Fairy in Lewes. All of their soap is vegetarian and contain no animal fats.

“We start with the finest food-grade oils, like olive, palm, almond and coconut. We then add to them even more healthy ingredients: like herbs and herbal extracts, natural clays, micas, and oxides for coloring, and plant essential oils and specially formulated soap fragrance oils for scent. What we end up with are pure, simple handmade soaps.”

Green giftable: Smart gifts that promote fair trade, and quality handmade goods that don’t harm animals, the environment or the people making them.

Go one step further by shopping online and saving gas: www.soapfairy.com; www.good4uorganic.com; www.dswa.com.

There are lots of ways to give “green” this Christmas. These are just a few ideas of where to start. Green means lots of different things to different people. The simplest way to look at it is to just be aware of what you are buying.

And when you buy something, be aware of the packaging. Save your gift bags, and wrap things in your old Coastal Points.

Lots of creative gifts can be given this year with special consideration for the environment and for its preservation. So buy something that is made locally, or grown locally, or hand-crafted where you know the people who made it get a decent wage. Alternatively, buy a recyclable item, or give the gift of recycling itself. And there might just be a greener spring to your step this season.