re-printed from Ojai Monthly magazine - December 2014
Eco-Elegant Home for the Holidays
by Cynthia Louise G.
Creating a beautiful home for the holidays can be a joyous experience and there is nothing better than allowing nature to inspire you. Look to our beautiful Ojai Valley to see all that is abundantly here and ready to become part of centerpiece or mantel decoration. Or let the simple beauty of an orange or pomegranate speak for itself. Sage, succulents, pepper tree leaves and pods, Toyon berries, citrus of all kinds, pine boughs and cones, and even lavender all are available this time of year. The aromas will heighten your senses, and the hikes out and about to gather these will keep you in a place of wellness and good cheer.
When we contemplate all of the energy and waste that goes into making mass produced holiday ornaments typically made of plastic, glass, or metal, thinking of the raw materials needed to be extracted from the earth, then transported, often around the globe, to be processed and assembled in factories that require huge amounts of electricity, and create pollution and unfair labor practices, only to be transported around the globe again, we come to realize the heavy price our planet really pays for these decorations.
During my early upbringing I had the good fortune to spend holidays on a 250 acre family farm where we were taught to explore and use our imagination to create sophisticated holiday ornaments just as generations of ancestors before us had done. Using what was available on the land was a tradition rooted in practicality, and also one that caused no harm to the planet. Repurposing is another tradition from times past that has become en vogue again. Creating tin lanterns made from recycled cans is a popular example of repurposing that will bring beautiful, twinkling light to your long, dark winter nights.
Other eco elegant options for holiday decorations could be small potted live evergreen trees instead of a full size cut tree, handmade beeswax candles for the menorah or kinara, mantelpieces garnished with pomegranate and pine, small squash filled with succulents as a centerpiece, garland of corks and Toyon berries, and my favorite that leaves the house smelling oh so delightful, orange and clove pomanders.
If DIY is not your thing and you plan to purchase holiday decorations and gifts, shop the several local Ojai merchants or services who offer sustainable, earth-friendly, and recycled gifts. You can also look for businesses that support fair trade or local environmental non-profit programs as a way to give back to the community. Two new programs to look for are the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy's 1% for Ojai and the Ojai Valley Green Coalition's Sustainable Business Leader program. Start your own new family holiday decorating traditions that are good for the health of the planet and leave you happy that you skipped the maddening crowds.