In South Florida, it’s easy to have a green Christmas when the local temps are in the mid-70’s this time of year. You can also have a green Christmas — even though the season is rife with over-consumption. Each year in the U.S., approximately $75 billion is spent on Christmas gifts, 1.9 billion cards are sent and 20.8 million trees are cut. This year, you can save a little money and the environment by carefully choosing eco-friendly gifts and décor. It’s easier than you think!
Shop local. Transportation of goods contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Buying from local producers reduces environment impact and supports the local economy. In addition, money spent at local businesses generates 3.5 times more wealth for the local economy than money spent at chain-owned businesses. One-of-a-kind local products are a unique alternative to mass-produced items from retailers. Check swap meets, craft shows, farmers markets, local listings and Etsy, which features a map for nearby artists.
DIY. Put your talents to work and make it yourself. Do you bake, knit, sew, paint or build things? Make the holidays personal by giving of yourself. Who doesn’t love cookies, a gender-neutral gift for the whole family? If you can’t cook, put ingredients in an attractive glass jar with the recipe and let the recipient do the cooking.
Recycle. There are many forms of recycling, from “re-gifting” to antiques to new products made from recycled materials. Vintage items are all the rage. Whatever you choose, this helps divert items from the landfill.
Power down. Avoid giving gifts that require batteries. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. According to the EPA, 40% of all battery sales occur during the holidays.
Make it deductible. Give to your favorite charity in the name of your friends and family. Go directly to their website or try Heifer.org and JustGive.org for help.
Be a material girl. Try to avoid plastics, polyesters and other materials that are not easily renewable or may produce toxins. Look for bamboo, cotton and wool – especially if they are organic.
Wrap it up. According to The Recycler’s Handbook, half the paper used in the U.S. each year is wrapping paper. The annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals more than 4 million tons. Avoid glossy or metallic gift wrap. Try fabric gift wrap or get creative by wrapping items in newspaper or old maps, calendars and posters. If you use ribbon, you may be able to skip the tape, which makes reclaiming the paper more difficult. Save the paper from large packages; creases can be ironed out and it can be cut to size for smaller gifts.
Play a little tag. Repurpose last year’s greeting cards as gift tags. For gift bags that come with attached tags, write “Please reuse this bag!” on them.
Pack it up. Bubble wrap is easy to store for future reuse. Cardboard boxes can be saved and reused or set out for recycling. Shipping companies like Mailboxes, etc. accept foam packing chips.
Remember that less is more. It’s the old quality vs. quantity argument. Give less and make each gift count by purchasing items of value, purpose and meaning.
Decorate less: clutter isn’t pretty. Keep it simple. Use treasured heirloom ornaments that have been in your family for generations. Choose durable ornaments made of wood, metal or cloth; they’ll last longer.
Light it — down? Fewer outdoor holiday lights will conserve electricity – which means a lower bill for you and better resource management for the planet. Use mini-lights outside; they utilize less energy.
Burn one. Don’t throw away the whole string when a single bulb goes out. Replace individual bulbs.
Get the LED out. If your lights are older than 10 years, it’s more efficient to replace them with new LED bulbs, which save up to 90% on energy costs and last longer. They use 0.04 watts per bulb – 10 times less than mini-bulbs and 100 times less than traditional bulbs. Over 30 days, they will cost $0.19 vs. $18.00 for traditional lights. They can last up to 100,000 hours indoors.
Decorate with nature. Incorporate pine cones or pine boughs into your design. Cut some dried seed pods or flower heads from your garden. Set a blooming plant on the mantel or use cut flowers as your table’s centerpiece.
Time it. Put your holiday lights on timers. It’s a waste of energy to leave them on all night.
Plant the tree. Of the 50 million trees purchased in the U.S. each year, about 30 million go to the landfill. It’s been long debated whether a reusable plastic tree is better for the environment than a cut tree. The answer is: neither. Try a potted tree instead. A small potted tree can be used for several years before it’s planted outdoors. If a potted tree isn’t for you, a live tree is the next best choice. Plastic trees are made from petroleum products and use resources in manufacturing and shipping. Although theoretically eternal, research shows that repeated use decreases their attractiveness, at which time they are discarded and sent to landfills. Live trees are a renewable resource and often locally grown, saving transportation. They contribute to the air quality during their life and can be converted into mulch after the holidays. Many communities offer tree pickup and chipping for free.
Eat local. Choose local and organic foods. If you canned produce from your garden last summer or made jam, now is the perfect time to use it.
Use the good china. The holidays were made for using the good dishes and the cloth napkins. Avoid disposables like Styrofoam cups and plastic forks. Break out the fancy stuff!
Bottoms up! Avoid individually packaged beverages. Use the punch bowl to make eggnog. Fill pretty pitchers with ice water and set them on the table for everyone to see – and reach.
Use the leftovers. Nothing beats holiday leftovers. What can’t be saved can be composted for the garden.
The party’s over
Cleanup. After the party, use all-natural household cleaners to tidy up. Run only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.
Donate. Did you get the latest gadgets? Donate your old electronics items or find a recycler for computer monitors, laptops, cell phones and other items because Indiana state law prohibits their disposal in landfills.
Remember, the holidays are a time for friends and family. You don’t need a lot of presents, a dazzling light display or an embarrassing amount of food. You just need a little appreciation to enjoy this special time of year.
Article courtesy IndianaLivingGreen.com