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Christmas Tree Lights

The holidays are coming! That means house guests. And that means plenty of potential for conflicts, especially when it comes to the practices of a green lifestyle.


In my house, we're used to it. For years, we've sheltered visiting familial dignitaries who find our enviro-ways confusing at best and ridiculous at worst. We've lived the nightmare: in-laws who can't keep the trash can and recycling bin separate; aunts and uncles who think light switches only have an "on" position; siblings who use a mile of paper towels to clean up a spot of milk.

So how do you cope when your visitors are less skilled in reducing, reusing, and recycling than you are? Here are some tips:

  • Give the gift of eco-moderation.  When we have guests, I lay off the hardcore attitudes and keep only a few rules that are easy to follow. For example, we insist that everyone, including visitors, leave their street shoes at the door (so they don't track in dirt or pollutants).  To make this less of a burden, we keep a pile of clean slippers in a basket near the door. 
  • Don't make your guests shiver.  We are hardy souls here in Vermont, but we recognize that not everyone wears thermal underwear like a second skin. So I wake up early to make sure the house -- or at least the kitchen -- is warm in the morning.
  • Respect food choices.  We're a vegetarian household, so when carnivores come calling we prepare dishes that are as close to meat as possible. One year, a holiday guest swore the protein we served was beef. Why argue with a happy houseguest?
  • Turn off the lights yourself, and don't complain. Rather than harass guests who leave lights on, make frequent rounds of the house and turn them off yourself. It's a lot easier this way, trust me.
  • A little education is OK.  While I don't make a habit of green proselytizing, I do look for opportunities to give simple tips. When a guest asks about plastic wrap, I direct them to the glass storage containers. When they need to do laundry, we pull out the cool new recyclable concentrated laundry detergent.

Our approach is one that keeps everyone happy. I figure that if I remain calm and make going green look as easy as it really is, a little sustainability might rub off on our guests. And that's a holiday gift I'll give any time of year.

Photo: Storeyland

Geoff the Inkslinger and his Dog

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!