The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but did you know that Americans throw away more trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time? In fact, it is double the usual amount, according to the Mother Earth Living Magazine, who says “Americans throw away a million tons of trash weekly, but during the holidays there’s an extra million per week, including 38,000 miles of ribbon and 4 million tons of shopping bags and gift wrapping.” Here are some ideas to help you make earth-friendly choices that also save money, so you can have a Green Holiday this year:
• Real vs. Fake Christmas tree? The age-old question of which is better for the environment is easy to answer, according to The Nature Conservancy. They state that real trees are best because of these reasons: Christmas tree farms keep land open instead of being developed, real trees suck carbon out of the air while they grow, are a renewable resource, and are completely recyclable since most areas pick up trees after the holidays and turn them into mulch. If you really want an artificial tree, finding a used one on Craig’s List or at thrift stores is a way to do so without impacting the earth.
• Plan to have a green holiday party this year by using real dishes instead of disposable, recycling cans and bottles, and if you are able, composting veggie scraps. If washing dishes isn’t feasible, use paper goods over plastic or foam, or find biodegradable plates and cutlery at Amazon.com.
• Look for recycled content holiday cards, or better yet, send a waste-free e-card this year.
• LED Christmas lights use 80-90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, so make the switch when it is time to buy new ones. Use timers on holiday lights so they turn off during the day and while you are sleeping to save energy.
• When holiday shopping, bring your own reusable bags to carry out your purchases to cut down on waste. Consider reigning in the excess and buying fewer, more meaningful gifts, since our homes are overflowing already. Quality vs. quantity.
• When on the hunt for gifts, visit local shops and seek out sustainably made items, or make personal homemade gifts like holiday breads, jams, or crafts found on Pinterest. A live plant is a wonderful gift that can be enjoyed far beyond Christmas. Thrift shopping is another way to get a deal on quality used items, and shops like The Fix and The Sharing Tree are local treasures.
• Consider gifts from an Alternative Christmas Market where you make a donation to a charity in the receiver’s name. Children love “Adopt an Animal” gifts from local zoos, Heifer International, or World Wildlife Fund and many times will be sent an adoption certificate, photo, and stuffed animal along with the gift of helping a good cause.
• Use recycled content wrapping paper, butcher paper, or reusable cloth or paper gift bags, and reuse tissue, bows and ribbons that are still in good condition. Have a paper bag or box ready Christmas morning to collect all the paper wrappings to be recycled.
• Cut out pretty pictures and sayings on old holiday cards to make gift tags, and attach them by hole punching and threading on a ribbon, or using glue dots.
• Challenge yourself to decorate only with what you already own or can find in nature. Beautiful table arrangements can be made with holly cuttings, citrus and candles.
These simple ideas can go a long way in making your holidays more environmentally friendly and could save you money.
Merry Green Christmas everyone!
Cara Fleischer is a Creation Care leader at Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church and a Liaison for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Join her Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/mommafly/. Email her at email@example.com.