Decorations are going up, special events and office potlucks are in full swing, and shopping deadlines are drawing near. Yes, the holidays are here. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but with all the extra commuting, packaging, and energy use, it’s also one of the most environmentally unfriendly times of the year. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ways to make your holiday season merry and sustainable for generations to come.
Did you know the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City uses 5 miles of lights and over 20,000 watts of electricity? Did you also know they are now all LED and solar-powered? That’s right. And if that famous tree can go green, so can you.
If you have not already, consider replacing all of your old incandescent light strings and decorations with energy-efficient LED lighting, which uses up to 80% less electricity. Solar-powered LED lights are a great option and only cost about $10 more per 100 feet. Next, set them all on timers. Six hours or less of daily use is a good goal to aim for.
Consider reducing the amount of battery-operated toys and devices you buy, or give solar-powered a try, such as these popular Solar Rovers kits on Amazon. Make sure to get rechargeable batteries if needed.
Or consider re-gifting: If you’re like most people, there’s a holiday gift collecting dust in your closet. You can reduce your carbon footprint this season by swapping some of your traditional shopping with these eco-friendly alternatives.
Green Yule Tide Flame.
If you’re in a cold climate and love to roast some chestnuts on the fire for that wonderful holiday ambience, use manufactured wood such as Duraflame instead, which the EPA recommends to reduce hazardous air pollutants by 90% vs traditional wood fires.
All that gift wrapping and holiday partying adds up to a significant amount of additional waste. According to the CDC, Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than they do regularly throughout the year.
When it comes to wrapping paper, forgo the shiny ribbons and foil gift wrap, which are often made from virgin-pulp paper and rarely recyclable. Instead, reuse what you can find around your house. Recycle your tins, newspaper funnies, or extra decorative fabric and scarves to wrap presents. It’s called “furoshiki” in Japan, and it’s all the rage.
Ditch the Disposable Dishes.
Holiday cleanup is no joke, but don’t contribute to the landfill with all those disposable cups, plates, and utensils. Instead, make it a point to entertain by using dishes, glasses, washable plastic and utensils, and cloth napkins whenever possible. Remember, if you cook, the others have to clean! And don’t forget to set up the recycle bin in plain sight for all those bottles you imbibe.
Snail mail is a treasured nostalgia, but we all know those cards are eventually heading for the garbage. Switch to e-cards to save some trees, or consider options made from 100% recycled junk mail and hemp, such as those available through the Green Field Paper Company, or from sustainable companies that plant their own forests, such as Paper Culture.
Green Secret Santa.
This tradition has been an environmentally friendly go-to because it reduces the number of gifts on everyone’s list. Perfect for offices and large families, you’re able to focus your gifting—and budget—on special selections for fewer people.
Gift of Time.
Speaking of large families or friend groups, pooling your shopping budgets to plan a special trip or vacation together is not only a wonderful way to build memories, but it also reduces the amount of stuff you buy. Quality time is priceless, and the pics from your ski excursion or tropical cruise will have everyone else thinking twice about material things.
Get crafty with some of your gifts. A hollowed-out book makes an inventive storage container for a literature buff or child. Homemade goodies such as cookies or jams are festively thoughtful when packaged in reusable mason jars. Everyone gets stressed during the holidays, so why not try your hand at one of these homemade salt scrubs to encourage relaxation for someone on your list.
Give the Gift of Experiences.
Consider gifts that benefit your local community, such as tickets to the local ballet or theater, or gift cards to a neighborhood spa, salon, or boutique.
There are so many ways to keep the environment in mind this holiday season. If everyone incorporated just a few of these energy-saving and waste-reducing tips into their holiday routines, imagine what a wonderful world it will continue to be.
Article Credit: Elena Schmidt