Holiday celebrations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day create more than a million pounds of extra discarded trash. This includes holiday wrapping and packaging, all of which negatively impact the environment. Earth Day might be in April, but it’s a theme to consider all year long, especially around the holidays to help diminish our carbon footprint, and enhance not only our quality of life, but those that will come after us.
Use LED Lights to Decorate Your House. LED lights release very little heat, and they last upwards of 200,000 hours. That’s a lot of holiday cheer! By using LED lights instead of incandescent, you can save up to $50 on your energy bill. It is estimated that if everyone used LED lights instead of the traditional lights, enough energy would be saved to power 200,000 homes for an entire year. Plus, if one LED light burns out in the bunch, the rest of them remain unaffected. Usual holiday crisis averted!
Rethink Wrapping Paper. Most of the wrapping paper used every year at holiday time is not recyclable. All the foil, shine, and colors mean that it goes straight from under the tree to the landfill. So much energy, trees and water are wasted in the mass production of most wrapping paper, and this is something that can be avoided. Alternatives include:
- Wrap presents with old maps or newspaper, especially the comics section or ads section
- Use children’s artwork
- Use pieces of scrap fabric
- Reuse and recycle old packaging and shipping boxes
- Chances are you’ve amassed quite a collection of gift bags over the years, use these up!
- Use brown paper bags, the ones you get at the grocery store and the ones you get from restaurants. Use markers to make your own holiday designs.
- Wrap the gift in an attractive dish towel that can serve as part of the gift
- Use a bandana, scarf or other useful cloth item.
- Don’t use any wrapping paper at all. Instead, choose to hide the gifts around the house (label it with the recipient’s name!) and create a holiday scavenger hunt.
Choose an Organic Tree. Traditionally, Christmas tree growers use dozens of different pesticides on their trees, including chemical colorants. The demand for pesticide-free trees is growing, so chances are high you’ll be able to find an organic tree farm in your area.
Go Local for Your Holiday Table. Instead of choosing produce, meats and baked goods that have to be imported from other areas, go local instead. You’ll be supporting your community of local farmers and you’ll notice how much better it all tastes, as well. It might cost a little bit more but, in the end, you’ll be getting more savory food, supporting local farmers, and helping the earth by cutting down on energy that is used during shipping from distant locations.
Give Intangible Gifts. Instead of giving a tie or a picture frame, opt for an experiential gift. Giving tickets to a play, a baseball game, or a museum or zoo membership is the gift of education, fun, and time spent together. Other possibilities include:
- Lessons (guitar, piano, voice, language, etc.)
- A nature hike
- A drive to the lake, river or ocean
- A homemade dinner of the recipient’s choosing
- A candlelit tour
- A ghost hunt
Recycle Your Christmas Tree. Most of us take the time to recycle bottles, cans, and newspapers (where it is available), so why not take the time to recycle the tree? Instead of having it end up in a landfill with 10 million others, if your city offers a program, you can get the tree recycled into wood chips or mulch. Or, get your family a plantable Christmas tree. You can enjoy it indoors for a week or two, and then plant it out back after the holidays. What better way to contribute positively to the environment?
Travel in an EV. If you’re planning on hitting the road for the holidays, consider renting an electric or hybrid vehicle if you don’t already own one. There are an increasing number of car rental companies that feature environmentally friendly cars. As always, make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage before renting. If you’re unsure, you can always look for car insurance quotes online.
Enjoying the holidays with family and friends is just the start of what true giving means. Thinking beyond ourselves and doing what’s right for the environment is a gift to everyone, and to the future.