The holiday season is an environmentalist’s worst nightmare: tons of packaging and wrapping paper thrown in the trash, thousands of twinkling lights using needless electricity, and hundreds of miles driven to find the perfect gift. Good news is that you do not need to be an all-out Grinch in order to be a little greener over the coming weeks.
WRAPPING AND WELL WISHING:
According to Robert Lilienfeld, co-author of the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are, Americans throw away over one million extra tons of garbage each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Much of this is packaging and wrapping. Buy items that use less packaging. Use newspaper, paper bags, or recycled/recyclable wrapping paper to cover gifts. Make your own cards using items around your house rather than buying new. Better yet, go paper free.
Not all gifts need wrapping. Experiential gifts (think tickets to a favorite show or a dinner out on the town) are a great way to build memories with friends and family members.
If you want to go the more traditional route and appease that eco-chic friend or family member, check out these green gift guides. Always remember to buy local when possible – you’ll not only cut down on your carbon footprint but also support the local economy.
“Go Green, Get Real” is the message expressed by the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association. If you live near a Christmas tree farm, buying a real tree (and recycling it once the holiday season is over) is your most sustainable option. If you don’t live near a farm, decorate a locally harvested tree (family friends used to decorate an orange tree instead of your typical Douglas fir) or get creative. Stay away from artificial trees if at all possible, these plastic prototypes are made from harmful petroleum products and aren’t nearly as sustainable as you think.
If you are a regular Clark Griswold, make sure to use LED lights (light emitting diodes) which are 90% more efficient than traditional twinkle lights. Indeed, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved this December.
DINING AND PARTYING:
The holidays are about celebrating with family and friends. Cut down on your environmental impact by using reusable dishes and silverware. Source your party food locally (see last week’s post about this here). Need a new outfit? Check out your local thrift store for a new party dress or this year’s fabulous ugly Christmas sweater.