By now the Thanksgiving leftovers are long gone, and the winter holiday season is in full swing. Since we are entering the final stretch before Christmas,Hanukkah, etc., here are some ways you can be green this holiday season.
People use massive amounts of wrapping paper each year solely to enjoy the pleasure of ripping it into tiny shreds and discover what’s underneath. Instead of using paper wrap consider, using reusable containers like tins, baskets, gift bags, and tissue paper (reusable since it generally does not get shredded). If bags don’t satisfy your need to destroy wrappings, consider using newspaper (the comics make great wrapping) or the brown paper used as packing material from your shipped presents (plain brown paper makes a great canvass for adults and kids alike). If you must have decorated paper, avoid metal and glitter finishes as many of these cannot be recycled. Regardless of what material you use, purchase products made from recycled materials and recycle the waste when possible.
Instead of using ribbon, use reusable bows to decorate packages. If you use ribbon and twine wrapping materials, collect it after presents have been unwrapped for use next year or re-purposing.
Fresh Christmas trees are a wonderful part of many Christmas traditions, but killing a tree and decorating its corpse for our own enjoyment is not the greenest habit. Instead of getting a live tree, consider purchasing an artificial tree that can be re-used year after year; the tree itself will become a part of the family tradition. If you cannot do without the fresh tree, purchase a potted tree that can be planted after Christmas. If potted trees are not available, look in your community for tree mulching operations after Christmas to recycle your tree.
The holidays are an excellent time to get out the lights and string them everywhere you can. While these displays are an integral part of the season, they also use large amounts of energy. Switching your lights from incandescent to LED bulbs can reduce your power usage by 70%. Set your decorations to a timer so that the lights automatically turn on and off. This prevents the lights from staying on all night and ensures they are on when you want to see them.
Prepare for Travel:
If traveling by car, empty your car of any extra materials you don’t need for the trip to improve your gas mileage. Inside your home, unplug non-vital electronics to prevent vampire electricity usage—low level electricity usage of electronics that are plugged in but still use energy when in stand-by mode or turned off. Using powerstrips that can easily be switched off is a great way to reduce vampire power all year. Adjust your thermostat to reduce the amount of time your heating/cooling system runs while you are away. If temperatures are mild enough, turn it off completely.
When purchasing presents, choose products with minimal packaging to reduce the amount of waste generated. When shopping online, try to make all your purchases in a minimal number of transactions to reduce the amount of shipping materials and energy. When your package arrives, re-use the shipping materials for packaging and wrapping gifts. Once all the presents are opened and the pretty packaging forgotten, don’t forget to recycle what you can.
For all of those fancy new electronics that require batteries, invest in rechargeable batteries to reduce future waste generation; rechargeable batteries may be more expensive initially, but they will pay for themselves after a couple of charge cycles.
Search local farmers markets and small local businesses for unique green gifts. These venues can be a great place to find recycled and re-purposed products like the these wine bottle planters, wine bottle vases, and glass-bottle glasses—sure it’s a plug, but every purchase helps GREEN to further our mission and goals.
The holiday season is a wonderful time full of family and cheer, but we don’t have to sacrifice being green to make the season a success. In general, remember to reduce, re-use, and recycle (in that order) whenever possible. We hope these tips help to make your holidays a bit greener, and we look forward to bringing you more GREEN in 2015.