Holiday lights and decorations are going up, Christmas carols are wafting through the air, and Santa is coming to town. Perhaps you have already braced yourself for the onslaught of the "buy, buy , buy" ads on TV, radio, Internet, email, and more. It is so easy to get caught up in the shopping frenzy that you might buy too much--more than you need and more than you can afford.

Thinking green can save you green this holiday season. With just a little forethought, your holiday experience--gifts, wrapping, entertaining--can be gentler on the planet and your pocketbook. And more fun too! Here are some ideas about green gifting to help you organize your thoughts.

1. Have a plan...or at least start out with one. Making a list of gift recipients and what you want to buy for them can focus your thinking and help keep you from overbuying. And you can "pre-shop" by checking prices and availability online or by phone before you head out.

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2. Think Local First. Downtown Summit has a terrific selection of stores with one-of-a-kind items in a wide price range. Stroll along, stop in the shops, and get lunch or dinner at one of the local restaurants--a relaxing and productive way to shop! The Summit Downtown website lists holiday events and features stores and gifts.

3. Consider shopping online for some items, especially for non-unique items. Maintaining a mall gobbles more energy than maintaining a warehouse and trucks.

4. Swap with friends. Used items in good condition, such as clothes, room accessories, DVDs, CDs, and sporting equipment, are examples of gifts that can be traded with friends or purchased at a thrift store, saving money and resources.

5. Look for products made from recycled materials. Check the labels before you buy; recycled materials mean that fewer natural resources were used to produce them.

6. Avoid excess packaging, and recycle as much as you can of packaging you do get. (Remember that, in Summit, all plastics 1-7 can be recycled curbside as can mixed paper and cardboard.)

7. Make a donation to a charity or non-profit. Charitable gifts, made in a giftee's name, are well suited for the person who has everything.

8. Consider giving gift certificates. Gift certificates, especially for picky teens and college students (whose tastes are never the same as yours), are green because you know they'll be used for something that will be used, avoiding waste...and that awkward moment when a teen opens a gift, rolls her eyes and tries to sound like she actually likes the polka dot blouse you bought for her.

9. Give without giving stuff. Alternative gifts such as tickets to a play or concert, adopting animals online, buying a tree for your school or town, taking friends to dinner, or arranging for a weekend getaway, make excellent gifts. For more ideas, go to The Daily Green.

By Beth Lovejoy, on behalf of the Summit Environmental Commission