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They're dreaming of a green Christmas

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A few years ago, Bill Cooke was mulling over ways to make his Christmas greener, more environmentally friendly, when he discovered he could buy a ton of air pollution.

"It was just like a light bulb went on," says the Sloansville, N.Y., resident. "I'm thinking: How come it took me so long to realize I could do this at Christmas?"

Thus it was that along with toys, games, and other gifts beneath the Cookes' tree, there appeared a "clean air certificate" citing the elimination of 2,000 pounds of sulfur-dioxide emissions. Cost: $50. (See sidebar, page 16).

Mr. Cooke's wife smiled supportively, as he recalls. But "the kids were a little young to really get it."

Welcome to the new world of "environmentally conscious" holidays. Once again this year, "green" gifts like Cooke's will be swamped by a national tidal wave of toaster ovens, ties, video games, and battery- powered kiddie cars - all encased in packaging bound for the landfill. But along with the 5 million extra tons of trash generated between Thanksgiving and New Year's, there are signs, too, that the environment will be getting its own kind of Christmas bonus: Many people want to "go green."

Some are primarily interested in helping the environment; others want to simplify their lives.

"There is a growing concern that the holiday season has gotten just so wasteful," says Betsy Taylor, president of the Center for a New American Dream, an advocacy group for voluntary simplicity. "People are not comfortable with the feel of it."

More than half of Americans say their lifestyles produce too much waste and that more recycling, energy, and water conservation - and less packaging - are needed, the center's polling shows.

While Americans are less enthusiastic about activities such as home recycling and saving electricity, a rising number of people say they would pay more for products that cause less pollution, a 2002 Roper poll found.

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