Kenny Perry makes Christmas wreaths at Plasterer’s Florist in Chambersburg.
Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion
‘Tis the season for driving to see friends and family and giving them gifts, decorating for the holidays and cooking lots of food – all of which can create more waste and increase energy consumption.
According to the ULS Report, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day Americans will throw away an extra six to 10 million tons of waste.
But garbage isn’t the only issue. Simple things like hanging lights on the Christmas tree or running the furnace to keep the house warm can also use more electricity and put a strain on the utility bills.
With that in mind, be sure to have yourself a “green” holiday by following these tips to minimize waste and save energy (and money, too).
READ: A Christmas wonderland can be found in Chambersburg
1. Watch your gas when traveling
This time of year can see a peak in traffic on the road with drivers heading out to see family and friends for the holidays, according to Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy. He said that an average driver will use between 30-40 gallons every month, but this number doubles during the holidays.
With that in mind, McTeague said there are a number of ways to reduce emissions and increase fuel mileage. The first tip is perhaps the easiest to follow – obey the speed limits.
“It’s not because it’s an arbitrarily number,” he said. “It’s because it’s most efficient.”
He also suggests drivers consider the weight of the vehicle when packing, only bringing what they need and leaving behind unnecessary items.
Normal car maintenance can also improve mileage. McTeague said making sure the air pressure is correct in the car’s tires and keeping current on oil changes are two great ways to reduce gasoline consumption.
For those heading across state lines, Gas Buddy also has an app available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store, which lists gas prices nearby and in other areas to help travelers find the best buy.
READ: Follow these tips to keep your finances in check while holiday shopping
2. Make sure your home is ready for winter
It’s starting to get colder outside, which means it’s time to fire up the heaters.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, half of the energy consumed in homes in the state is for heating.
With that in mind, having the right type of furnace can have a big impact on heating costs.
A certified gas furnace is up to 16 percent more energy efficient than baseline models and can save an average of $94 in energy costs a year, compared to certified oil furnaces which are 4 percent more energy efficient than baseline models and can save an average of $66 in energy costs a year, the department said.
But even with the right furnace, cold air can sometimes leak into homes through windows, doors, plumbing vents and attic hatches, which can cost extra money and waste energy. The department said one way to improve this is to seal homes with weather-stripping, caulking and door sweeps to help keep the hot air in.
Proper insulation is another way to keep hot air in.
Heat flows from warmer places inside homes to cooler places until the temperature is the same. According to the department, this means in winter heat will flow from all heated areas to nearby unheated areas – including the outdoors. When a house is properly insulated, it saves money and improves comfort.
READ: Here are tips for teaching kids how to be thankful
3. Use more energy-efficient technology
The right technology can also play an important role in reducing energy consumption.
A programmable thermostat can customize the heating in homes, and ensure it’s not running when no one is home to help save energy and money.
When decorating the Christmas tree or using other light holiday decorations, using LED lights can help conserve electricity. According to the department, these lights create light very efficiently and the heat produced is absorbed into a heat sink, compared to incandescent bulbs that release 90 percent of their energy as heat.
4. Reuse and recycle
One of the easiest ways to reduce waste this holiday season is to remember to recycle, according to public affairs coordinator for Waste Management, Erika Deyarmin-Young.
She suggests homeowners visit recycleoftenrecycleright.com to find out which items are recyclable and which ones aren’t.
For example, not all gift-wrapping paper can be recycled. Deyarmin-Young recommends other alternatives such as scarves, handkerchiefs, old maps, newspapers, children’s artwork and re-purposed gift bags to help cut down the waste. She also said natural evergreens, berries and dried flowers are great replacements for bows.
Reducing waste can even start with the gift. While shopping, Deyarmin-Young said to consider no-waste items, such as museum, concert or sports tickets, or potted plants and trees. She added if other items are purchased, they should be made with recycled content, as this will encourage manufacturers to produce others.
During dinners or while entertaining, Deyarmin-Young also suggests using washable plates, utensils and cloth napkins. She said for families who have leftover food, they can send some home with guests or donate it to a local homeless shelter or food pantry. Hosts can also help encourage guests to recycle by having clearly marked recycling bins.
It might be easier to go buy decorations at the store, but Deyarmin-Young said asking for free clipping from Christmas tree lots is a great way to make a new wreath or garland. Homeowners can also swap decorations with friends for a new look this season.
And after the holidays are over, mulching is another option to dispose of the Christmas tree, Deyarmin-Young said. The mulch can then be used at home or donated to a local school’s garden.
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