Did you know that there are an estimated 25 million tons of extra waste produced between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? Where did you think the tinsel, trees, wrapping paper and paper plates go when you’re done with them?
By making a few simple changes to your holiday festivities, you can reduce the amount of waste your family produces this year. It’s easier than you imagine and won’t require you to spend a lot of money, either. You might even have a little more fun in the process!
Here are ten ways to have a greener holiday season this year:
1. Switch to LED lights
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that holiday lights take a lot of energy to power up. If you haven’t made the switch to LED lights yet, this is the season to do so. LED lights are 90% more efficient, last longer, and are less likely to break after a year of being stored and tangled up in the garage. Oh yeah, they save you money, too, and who doesn’t appreciate that during the holidays?
2. Use Frustration-Free Packaging
If buying gifts from Amazon.com is something you do each year, take advantage of their Frustration-free Packaging when possible. The service, which is growing in popularity, makes it a lot easier and environmentally friendly to send presents.
A Frustration-free Package comes in a recyclable Amazon box and doesn’t include those pesky clamshell casings, excess wires and ties, and plastic bindings. Why bother spending precious minutes wrestling with packages on Christmas morning, not to mention attending to the little cuts you might get trying to open them, when there’s an easier, greener way?
3. Buy local foods and make less
An easy way to have a greener holiday season is to buy locally grown food for your meals and baked goods. Buying local means you’re supporting local farmers and that your produce, meat, and other items didn’t have to travel across the country to the store shelf.
Go a step further and make less food this holiday season. Many times, an overabundance of food is prepared for holiday meals and much of it ends up in the trash. Create less waste if possible, and if you do have a large amount of leftover food, donate it to a local shelter, freeze it for later, or place it in yard waste bins or compost bins if you use them.
4. Give experiences, not gifts
Giving loved ones experiences instead gifts reduces waste. There’s no wrapping paper, ribbon, or packaging to get thrown away. And it’s an easy way to be a bit more personal over the holidays. Your teenage niece may love a spa day that includes a haircut or mani/pedi while your favorite aunt and uncle will be thrilled to go wine tasting at local wineries. The idea of giving an experience to young children probably won’t go over well, but if you think your child can tolerate a few less presents for tickets to an ice show or a dance class, go for it.
5. Email holiday cards and annual letters
Sure, the idea of emailing season’s greetings may make Emily Post shudder, but if you really want to cut back on waste, it’s the way to go this holiday season. Think of all the holiday cards you receive each year. It’s a lot, right? And they all end up in the same place - the trash. Most cards, particularly ones with photos, are not recyclable. If the idea repels you, try using recycled paper or cards. Or try alternating methods each year, so you email one year and not the next.
6. Bring the outdoors in when it comes to decorations
If you tend to decorate your tree using tinsel and your home with plastic garlands, skip that this year and bring the outdoors inside instead. String popcorn and cranberries to wrap around your tree and literally deck the halls with boughs of holly. You can buy fresh garlands, wreaths, and other festive decor at local nurseries and retailers that you can mulch or put in yard waste bins at the end of the season. An added holiday bonus? The smells are much more authentic and festive!
7. Use real plates, not paper or plastic
It’s tempting to use paper and plastic plates and utensils during the holidays. No one likes to spend time cleaning up! If your goal is to have a greener season, however, then there’s no time like the holidays to pull out your nice dishes and silverware and show them off. Besides, using your dishwasher to clean dishes is easier on the environment than washing by hand, since dishwashers use less water to clean.
8. Give battery-free gifts and/or green toys
Kids love receiving toys at Christmas and it seems like the louder and brighter it is, the better. Of course those toys require batteries, which can’t be recycled, so this year opt for battery-free toys as often as possible. It will encourage your child to use his imagination and keep you from being driven to distraction by those bells, whistles, and lights.
Green toys are also a wonderful option and more retailers than ever are stocking up on eco-friendly toys that are BPA-free, lead-free, and are made from sustainable or recycled materials.
9. Shop LOCAL
Don't forget that it is our small local companies that make up the majority of the economy and workforce. Shop local
and make your friends and family happy to know that they are supporting your own community. Not sure who is local? Visit staylocal.org!
10. Try alternative wrapping methods
Four million tons of wrapping paper are tossed out each year during the holidays. Yes, shiny packages wrapped with lovely, colorful ribbons are nice, but there’s a reason that Julie Andrews sings about how “brown paper packages tied up with string” is one of her favorite things.
You can place lovely presents under your tree or hand them to loved ones without wrapping items in traditional wrapping paper. Try butcher paper and tie them with twine, which is a classic look that you can also easily personalize with decorations. Colorful comics from the Sunday paper is another way to wrap presents and give it a more personal touch.
If you do buy wrapping paper, look for 100% recycled paper (which you can also recycle, unlike other wrapping paper) or save the paper from your packages and neatly fold them up for later use.
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. (Except for the online part - we changed that to LOCAL gift-giving!)