A holiday gift for the planet and our wallets

A holiday gift for the planet and our wallets

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During the holidays we donate coats to the homeless, buy presents for strangers and send cards to the brave soldiers representing our country far from home. In addition to those charitable efforts during this time of year, how about if we come up with ways to give to our planet?

Huh? In light, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the current United Nations climate-change meeting of world leaders in Paris, perhaps we can add a few small items to our lists. And, no, most of them don’t require spending any money. In fact, they will help save money.

For starters, and this is something my Depression-era grandparents ingrained in me from an early age, turn off the lights in rooms we don’t use. I know that’s tough, especially during this darker time of year, but it cuts our electric bill. That’s an extra few bucks in your pocket at a time when our kids absolutely, positively, have to get the latest, greatest, fastest, most-fashionable present to pass the holiday parent test.

When we drive somewhere and wait for someone, turn off those engines. Seriously, idling is something we should never do. It wastes gas and pollutes the environment. I appreciate all the effort parents make to sit outside schools, piano lessons, practices and games, waiting to pick up their children. But leaving the engine on is not only unnecessary, it fills the air with pollutants just before our children step in the car. Having sat in cars in temperatures below freezing for close to a half-hour, I assure you that the car stays warm if you don’t open your window or door. Seriously, try it. It also gives us those cherished moments of silence.

Then, there’s the thermostat. Yeah, I know we like it warm, but for the month of December, how about turning it down just 2 degrees? If that becomes unbearable, lower it just 1 degree. It might not seem like much individually, but that can and will make a huge difference collectively.

During the night we can turn off our computers and printers. These machines are much faster at booting up than the same electronics were just a decade ago. While we’re waiting for our computers to come back online, we can check our emails, send important messages about what we just realized we need to get from the store, and send instant messages to people around the world.

OK, so, we’ve got that shopping list and we know you’ll forget something because the overstimulating holiday environment of most stores has an ability to soften our brains. The bright and clever displays and constant caroling music on the radio encourage us to buy something that wasn’t on the list, turning us into consumer marionettes.

But if we were more efficient about our holiday shopping, we could buy that extra thing and still cross everything else off the list. What does that buy us? It gives us more time to write that rhyming couplet expressing our enduring love for our spouse and it reduces the amount of time we’re running back and forth to stores.

How about walking? I know it seems hard to imagine carrying everything from store to store but, let’s face it, it’s hard to find parking spots anyway. Instead of using gas to get from one place to another, by walking we could burn off that extra piece of pumpkin pie that called to us from the refrigerator.

Like so many other efforts at this time of year, giving to our planet will bring returns for us, our children and grandchildren down the road.