Dreaming of a green Christmas Published Dec. 15, 2008 By Marcella Whitfield Resource Efficiency Manager KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- The holidays are fast approaching with Thanksgiving already gracing our dinner tables. Stores are already serving up helpings of holiday tunes as we browse their aisles. Most of you, no doubt, will see your bills climb during this season, due in large part to a multitude of gift giving and to what I can politely describe as "excessive holiday lawn ornamentation". Oh yes, you all have that house on your street, whose owner has gone above and beyond the normal scattering of holiday decoration. The indecisiveness of a central theme has landed giant-sized Frosty, Rudolph, Santa and Snoopy, all flanked with Wise Men and Menorahs. Such artful display can certainly ring in the New Year with a hefty power bill, but I am here to help you save some money and even help out the environment at the same time. Here are some helpful tips to keep you sane and some feel-good facts from the Sierra Club to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. While I can help you "green up" your holiday act, I cannot help you with that elaborate lawn atrocity across the street. Sorry. 1. Make your own wrapping paper! Even cheap wrapping paper costs around $5 per roll and is barely noticed by the eye of the recipient as they shred through the paper to the gift itself. Plus, most wrapping paper is not recyclable and ends up in landfills! Want to do something different this year, wrap presents with the comics section of the newspaper or brown paper grocery bags. Do you have kids? Buy some blank newsprint rolls leftover from your local newspaper and have your children create "custom" wrapping paper that will be a hit with everyone! IMPACT: If every family in the United States wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. WHERE TO BUY: Newsprint end rolls are sold at the Sun Herald in Biloxi for only $2! (896-2168) 2. Visit your local farmers market to add local products to your holiday table! Grace your holiday table with goodies from local farmers and businesses. Items like Mississippi raised and smoked Quail from Lucedale's own Country Farms, Louisiana Creole Tomato Jam from Whitewood Farms and Claire's homemade pickled green beans from Petal, Mississippi are just a few great things I've recently picked up for own home. The real question is, will they last until the holiday season? In my case, probably not! IMPACT: Buying local funnels money back into the local economy here. Plus, doesn't food just taste better when it hasn't flown halfway around the world to get to your plate? WHERE: Biloxi has a farmers market under the I-110 overpass on Howard street on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ocean Springs Fresh Market is every Saturday from 9AM-1PM near the intersection of Washington Avenue and Highway 90. To find even more local farmers, visit localharvest.org and search by zip code, you'll be amazed by the variety available! 3. Buy Energy-Saving LED Holiday Lights! You can decorate your house with LED lights that use 90% less energy that traditional holiday lights. LED lights also last twice as long. IMPACT: The average incandescent mini-light uses 5 watts per bulb. An entire string of LED mini-lights uses around 4 watts...Yes, I said the entire string! How does saving up to $50 on your energy bill this December sound? WHERE: Major retailers and hardware stores sell LED lights. 4. Plug decorations into a simple timer! You can plug in your indoor and outdoor lights into a simple timer that will shut off lights during the day to save money! IMPACT: Not lighting or running these decorations around the clock can help put more money back into your wallet! WHERE: Major retailers and hardware stores sell plug in timers. The average cost is $15 per timer. 5. Think green with your holiday tree! Many of you have converted to a plastic tree which is reusable for years to come, and I commend you because you have made a very green choice already. For those of you who prefer having a living tree in your home, however, there is still hope. You can do several things to "green" your holiday tree. Several trees are grown with lots of pesticides and artificial colors that can amplify allergies in certain individuals. Choosing a pesticide-free tree can alleviate all this fuss. You can also recycle your tree after the season is over. While your tree won't fit in the recycling bin, many cities offer tree recycling programs with convenient tree drop off locations throughout each city. IMPACT: Each year, 10 million holiday trees end up in the landfill. Recycling your tree not only saves landfill space but the recycled tree ends up as mulch or wood chips that can be reused in landscaping around your area. WHERE: Gulfport, Biloxi and Ocean Springs will offer tree recycling this year to their residents. Keesler Air Force Base Housing residents can drop off their trees at the base compost yard which is located across from the Civil Engineering Headquarters Building (Building 4705) on M Street. 6. Need help with a New Year's resolution? Why not start off the year green? When has your last New Year's resolution actually saved you money? Many electric providers offer free Energy Audits to customers and this is an easy way to find some easy ways to cut the fat out of both your energy bill and your electric load. It's an easy starting off point for getting a greener perspective in 2009! IMPACT: Saving money on your electric bill! How much or how little depends on how green you get! WHERE: Contact your servicing electric provider for more specifics and information on obtaining a free energy audit. Note: If you want more information on anything you read here, whether it is how to get the newsprint rolls and local products or where to drop off your live tree after the holiday season, please feel free to contact me at Marcella.firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you out!