Dreaming of a green season

With just a little effort, families enjoying the year-end holiday season can be "greener" and do their bit to slow global warming.

So says Dr Willie Marais, national president of the Institute of Estate Agents (IEASA), which has the following ideas for homeowners keen to keep their festive season environmentally correct:

* Don't use wrapping paper for gifts. Every year, wrapping results in the decimation of thousands of trees and generates tons of extra garbage - and much fancy wrapping paper cannot be recycled. As an alternative, why not use re-usable gift bags made out of fabric (or even pillowcases tied with ribbon)? Another idea is to make your own "recycled" wrapping out of newspapers, magazines or paper bags.

*Don't throw your plastic tree away after Christmas. It is most likely made from PVC and not biodegradable. Rather fold it up carefully and put it away in its box for another year. If you're buying your first tree this year, why not support local crafters at the same time and buy a wire one you can use over and over, or one of those made from the branches of alien trees that have been cleared? Or if you want to be really "green", get a live tree from a nursery or garden centre and plant it in your garden once you've taken down the decorations. Just remember to water it while it's in its pot.

* If you're putting up holiday lights to decorate the house, garden or lapa, make sure they are the newer LED-type which use 75 to 90% less energy than the old type with incandescent globes. And if you're using large coloured globes to light the garden, make sure they're the energy-saving CFL kind - which also last much longer.

* Don't throw old gadgets into the rubbish bin. If you get a new camera, cellphone or

MP3-player for Christmas, and your old one still works, don't trash it. Rather donate it to a good cause or sell it at a second-hand goods shop. And if it's broken, take it to a local computer or electronic goods shop that has proper disposal procedures for e-waste. Discarded electronic goods and batteries contain a stew of toxic metals and chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that should not get into the landfill.

*If you're giving electronic gadgets as gifts, make sure they're accompanied by a charger and rechargeable batteries. This will help to keep more potentially harmful materials out of the landfill and save money in the long run.

* Where possible, give "green" gifts. These include everything from plants or trees for the garden and homemade cakes, jams and sweets to Freeplay radios and lanterns and eco-adventure experiences. There are thousands of ideas on the Internet.

Issued by the

Institute of Estate Agents of SA

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