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15 Ways to Green Your Holiday
Don't wait until New Years to to make an eco-friendly resolution! The holiday season offers a multitude of opportunities to go green, from the holiday decorations in your home to the gifts you buy for friends and family. It's easier than you think if you do it in bite-sized steps — and those little things matter! These 15 tips from The Green Year by Jodi Helmer are all great ways to make this a green holiday. And some are downright habit-forming, so you'll get a little head-start on being more eco-friendly in the new year.
1. Take an inventory of your holiday décor
Do you need a festive serving bowl or a new holiday stocking for your mantle? Make a list of the things you need and look for them at secondhand stores. At this time of year, the aisles of thrift shops are filled with gently-used holiday decorations. You’ll find all of the things you need to trim your tree at a fraction of the price and help keep boxes of ornaments from going to the landfill.
2 . Go online to check the proofs of your holiday card photos
If sending holiday cards with a family photo is a tradition, look at the photos electronically before ordering. You’ll reduce the use of chemical inks and heavy duty photo paper if you view the proofs online. Once you’ve picked the photo for your holiday cards, be sure to order only as many cards as you plan to send to eliminate waste.
3. Send your holiday greetings electronically
Almost 2.65 billion Christmas cards are sold in the U.S. every year — enough cards to circle the planet 10 times! Sending electronic holiday cards is a simple way to reduce the amount of holiday waste. Websites like hallmark.com and photobucket.com offer a selection of holiday e-cards that can be personalized and sent to family and friends. Tip: If you prefer the more traditional route of sending cards through the mail, look for holiday cards printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink.
4. Get LED holiday lights
Most retailers stock energy-efficient LED holiday lights — made with light-emitting diodes. LED lights are 90 percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights and last longer — up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for incandescent bulbs. You can also increase your energy savings with solar powered holiday lights. Some retailers even sell strands of decorative icicles and holiday wreaths with solar panels.
5. Make your holiday shopping list green
You can green your holiday shopping by choosing eco-friendly gifts, shopping at locally-owned stores or buying from retailers who use a portion of their profits to support environmental causes. A 2007 holiday shopping survey by KPMG found that 88 percent of respondents were concerned about the environment. Almost three-quarters of shoppers buy eco-friendly products and 55 percent made a special effort to patronize retailers with a reputation for being green.
6. Put your holiday lights on timers
Leaving your holiday lights turned on 24 hours a day will quadruple the energy costs — and create four times the pollution as leaving them on for six hours. Set your timer to turn the lights on at dusk and leave them on until you go to bed. You’ll be able to enjoy the lights all evening without burning energy overnight.
7. Make a list of must-have green gifts
Be prepared when someone asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” Ask for eco-friendly gifts like organic wine and fair trade gifts including jewelry, handbags, clothing and home décor. Or, ask for a donation to be made in your name to a charity that supports environmental causes.
8. Rethink your holiday wardrobe
Even if the invitation to your office's holiday party requests “formal attire,” you can look your best without spending a fortune on a dress you’ll only wear once. Ask a same-size friend if she has a formal dress you can borrow. Not an option? Buy a dress from a consignment shop. Consignment shops only accept the latest fashions in perfect condition. You’ll spend a fraction of the money to “recycle” a dress.
Bonus: You can put it back on consignment at the shop where you purchased it. (Be sure to take it to an eco-friendly dry cleaner first).
9. Carpool to holiday parties
Call family and friends and suggest going to a party together instead of driving separately. Or, call an elderly member of your church or synagogue and offer to pick her up for services. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint and help spread the spirit of the season.
10. Decorate with natural materials
You can make beautiful holiday decorations with items found in nature: A bowl of evergreen boughs and fresh fruit, a basket filled with fallen branches, winter berries and pinecones, and seasonal plants like poinsettias make inexpensive holiday décor. Once the holidays are over, your decorations can be added to the compost pile.
11. Use an inherited or second-hand menorah to celebrate Hanukkah
You could buy a brand new menorah or you could light candles in the same menorah that has been in your family (or someone else's) for generations. Not only will an inherited menorah will have special meaning, it’ll save you from driving to the store to buy a new one. Tip: Make your Hanukkah celebrations even more eco-friendly by using soy-based candles in your menorah. Soy candles are made from renewable resources and last twice as long as conventional paraffin candles. Beeswax candles are another health-friendly, planet-friendly option.
12. Start gathering eco-friendly packing materials
Mail your holiday gifts in boxes padded with recycled newspaper or the leftover paper in your shredder. You can also use real peanuts and include a note asking the recipient to feed them to the squirrels once the box is unpacked. These green materials will protect your packages just as well as bubble wrap or Styrofoam but have none of the negative impacts on the environment. Styrofoam accounts for up to 25 percent of the waste in our landfills. And when it’s burned, Styrofoam releases over 90 different toxins including dioxin, a known carcinogen.
13. Buy a cut Christmas tree
Nearly all cut Christmas trees were grown on tree farms — which means their stock is replenished yearly and forests aren’t depleted. Cut Christmas trees are a much greener choice than artificial trees, which are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles before they reach your living room. Unlike artificial trees, which eventually end up in the landfill, cut trees can be recycled after the holidays.
14. Wrap presents in gift bags
Once you tear the wrapping paper off of a holiday gift, it ends up in the recycling bin — but gift bags can be used over and over again. Look for gift bags made with recycled materials or purchase plain paper bags and decorate them yourself with recycled holiday cards. If every family in the U.S. reused two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon – enough to tie a bow around the entire planet. Get more green gift wrap ideas here.
15. Shop for holiday gifts that don’t require batteries
Nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holidays. Eventually, worn out batteries end up in the landfill where they leach toxic metals into the soil and groundwater. You can help keep batteries from going to the landfill by choosing holiday gifts that don’t require batteries. If you do buy gifts that require batteries, give rechargeable batteries.
Live green all year long! Watch sustainability videos on GaiamTV.com.