Earth-Friendly Holiday Tips!

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Most people view the winter holidays as a magical time for gift giving and carol singing. However, the holidays can also be a time of over-consumption and wastefulness. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, most of us will throw out 25 percent more trashthan at any other time of the year. Here are some tips to reduce what you consume, give, and throw away throughout the holiday season.

Giving: Think green while choosing gifts. Buy durable products that the recipient can use again and again, preferably those made from natural components, such as organic cotton or hemp, and look for products with recycled content. Electronics should feature the Energy Star label, which ensures the product is energy efficient. Look for toys made from natural wood, and avoid plastic toys containing PVC. Gifts can help the recipient go green, such as cloth grocery bags, rechargeable batteries, or compact fluorescent bulbs. Keep in mind gifts can be things to do instead of things to have: gift certificates for yoga or massage, or theatre or concert tickets are good examples. Homemade gifts – coupons, baked goods, music, poetry – are fun to make, and fun to receive.

Shopping: If you plan to brave the mall, carpool with a friend to save gas. Take a cloth bag to hold your purchases and turn down oil-based plastic bags. Remember to wield your purchasing power by supporting businesses that are environmentally friendly, and avoiding those that are not! Shopping online or by mail-order can be a good option – many environmentally friendly e-companies feature fast shipping and minimal packaging.

Wrapping: Keep in mind that wrappings just become a big pile of trash, and minimize! Save and re-use bows, ribbons, gifts bags, and wrappings. Try alternatives to store-bought wrappings – brown paper grocery bags, left-over fabric, magazine pages, or newspaper. If you buy wrapping, buy a product with post-consumer recycled content, and avoid glossy or shiny paper.

Shipping: Avoid using foam packaging, like traditional Styrofoam packing peanuts. Biodegradable packing peanuts are now available from office supply stores, and crumpled newspaper works just as well. Or, shop online and have gifts shipped directly from the store to the recipient.

Decorating

Christmas Trees: A live tree is the best option! Purchase a potted pine and plant it in your yard after the holidays. Norfolk Pines are a good option for Florida. (Note that live trees should not be inside for more than 2 weeks, and will need lots of water during their inside hours.) If you already have a cut tree, be sure to recycle it when you take it down. You can make mulch for your yard, or break it into fire-fuel for your fireplace or bonfire. Keep in mind that artificial trees are petroleum-based products, and therefore worse for the environment than cut trees.

Lights: The smaller the bulb, the less energy string lights will use. Turn lights off before going to sleep.

Think homemade! Decorate doorways and windows with the Christmas cards you receive, or staple them onto a long piece of ribbon for display. String popcorn and cranberry garlands, pine cones, flowers, or leaves, and compost them after the holidays. Avoid spray snow, which contains toxic chemicals, and make old-fashioned paper snowflake cutouts instead. If you are tired of your decorations, swap with a friend for a year instead of buying an all-new theme.

Resources on the Web

Edible Christmas Tree Ornament Guide
Martha Stewart: Handmade Christmas Gifts
Family Fun: Homemade Christmas Gifts

Shop Online for Green Gifts:
WWF Wildlife Gift Adoptions
GreenHome
Rawganique
Eco Mall

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