Dear Earthtalk: What are some ideas for being greener this holiday season? Beth Livingston, Camdem, NJ
While the holidays are festive and fun, they can take a toll on the environment. All that shopping, decoration, food preparation and travel adds up to more carbon emissions and more waste. But there are ways to minimize our impact and still celebrate the season in grand style.
For starters, buy fewer gifts. Homemade, personal gifts are always appreciated as much or more than something store-bought. Paint a painting, bake a cake, or make a playlist of favorite songs. EarthEasy.com recommends giving services instead of goods to cut down on the materialism of the holidays: “A great gift could be an hour's massage at a local spa, or music lessons for a budding musician.” Other service gift ideas include childcare or tutoring, dog walking, cooking, window-washing, a car wash and vacuum or even Internet/computer lessons. Another way to cut down on the amount of stuff passing under your tree is by having a Secret Santa exchange among grown-ups so that every adult doesn’t have to get gifts for several others.
Another way to save energy and waste is to tone down the holiday decorating, especially with regard to lighting. A 2008 report commissioned by the Department of Energy found that holiday lighting across the U.S. uses up some six terawatt-hours of electricity per year, which is equivalent to the total electricity consumption of half a million homes in a month. If you do still decide to indulge in holiday lights, try to go LED. The smaller “light emitting diode” bulbs don’t get hot to the touch (and are less likely to start a fire) and consume a fraction of the electricity of their incandescent predecessors while lasting 10 times longer. HolidayLEDs.com gives customers who recycle their old holiday lights with them a voucher for 15 percent off a new order of LED lights.
Believe it or not, your choice of a Christmas tree affects your environmental footprint as well. The Epoch Times reports that artificial trees are not necessarily the answer, as most are made out of petrochemicals, PVC, metals or sometimes even lead, and can't usually be recycled so end up in landfills after a few years of useful life. Furthermore, some 80 percent of artificial trees are made in China, meaning shipping them on trucks, railways and container ships uses a lot of fuel and emits a lot of carbon dioxide accordingly.
Getting a real tree, preferably one that is organic and sustainably harvested by a local tree farmer, is a better choice. After all, real trees provide habitat for wildlife while they are growing, and they filter dust and pollen out of the air while producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. The Epoch Times adds that typically one to three tree seeds are planted for every Christmas tree harvested in the U.S. And if you get a potted (living) Christmas tree, you can keep it for years after the holidays pass, either in its pot (or a bigger one as it grows) or in the ground outside.
Of course, another way to keep your carbon footprint down over the holidays is by just staying home. A third of the carbon emissions we generate in our daily lives come from driving our cars, so why not stay off the roads over the holidays? And air travel is one of the biggest carbon splurges any of us indulge in, so not jetting across the country to visit in-laws might be the best environmental action you take all year.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com).
Atlantic Sturgeon Jumps Out of Nowhere Onto Boat on MD Creek Biologists trying to figure where fish- believed to be extirpated in state- came from By Karl Blankenship; Distributed by Bay Journal News Service
Two years ago, Bill Harris and his daughter were fishing on Marshyhope Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when suddenly, across the river, a large sturgeon jumped out of the water.
“‘That is a once in a lifetime experience!’” Harris exclaimed to his daughter, Susan. “We’ll never see another sturgeon.”
He was wrong. During fishing trips last year with his friend, Randy Rowland, the two retired U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists saw sturgeon after sturgeon. They counted nearly 50 jumping sturgeon during their weekly fall fish trips on the creek, a tributary to the Nanticoke River.
This year, they got an even closer look. On Sept. 20, Harris and Rowland were carp fishing when they saw a number of sturgeon jumping nearby. They edged nearer.
Suddenly, a five-and-a-half-foot sturgeon leapt out of the river and into their 16-foot boat, landing between Harris, who was sitting in the back seat, and the motor. The big fish knocked a rod holder off the boat, sent a fishing rod into the water and brushed against Harris’ thigh. “It went ballistic,” recalled Harris, who leapt from his seat. “I was hoping he wouldn’t beat the bottom out of the boat.”
The fish calmed down after less than a minute, and the two men were able to return it to the water. But they also took pictures — photographic evidence of what a number of other people have reported in recent years: large, jumping sturgeon in the Marshyhope and Nanticoke. Read more... Read More Nature
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