It’s estimated that over $720 billion will be spent by Americans on Christmas this year, and it’s been found that Americans also throw away over 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s period — which amounts to an extra 25 million tonnes of garbage ending up in the landfill!
You can easily do your part to reduce these numbers, and your overall Christmas carbon footprint, by checking out these top tips to help you go green (or greener!) this holiday season.
Reuse your Wrap
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields – Stanford University
Wrapping paper is often used just once and thrown away, but you can avoid paper entirely by wrapping your gifts and treasures in decorative tins or boxes, scarves or fabric.
You can also recycle any paper wrapping that is used: non-glossy paper wrapping can be shredded for the compost or added to your recycling bin, and bows, ribbons and tissue paper can be saved and used for future years.
As detailed in one of our recent posts “How to Host a Sustainable Holiday Dinner“, the Worldwatch Institute estimates Americans are spending much more in energy to get food to the table than the energy we even get from eating the food…which is shocking.
Buying local, on the other hand, not only supports local businesses, farmers, and their families, but a “typical meal — some meat, grain, fruits, and vegetables — using local ingredients uses 4 to 17 times less petroleum consumption in transport than the same meal bought from the conventional food chain.”
Spend a fun weekend morning checking out your local farmers’ market, or, if you live in an area where local farms are easily accessible, do some research as to which are open to the public and head straight to the source. Buying local not only reduces the amount of energy required to put food on the table, but it’s also a great way to get to know your local businesses and farmers and support the economy where you live.
Limit Your Waste
The holiday season is a time for baking and cooking, but you can still work towards limiting your waste. Collect all your food scraps (potato peelings, unusable ends of produce, rinds, plate scrapings) for compost, and save useable leftovers (like leftover carrots, potatoes, turkey bones and meat) to make soup that you can freeze for cozy dinners during the winter months. It’s also a great idea to have any dinner or party guests bring a reusable container with them that they can fill up with leftovers to eat for lunch the next day.
Cook smart in general: if you’re hosting a dinner party for 4, do you really need to cook enough mashed potatoes for 10? Do you really need that 20lb turkey? Try to buy only what you will really consume, and have a plan to use the leftovers and scraps in an environmentally friendly way.
As easy as it may seem to use paper plates and plastic cutlery for your holiday parties and meals, it adds up to a lot of waste. Plus, when else do you have such a good excuse to use your fine china or dinnerware sets? If you don’t have enough plates to host your gathering, you can rent dinnerware locally for a relatively inexpensive price, or ask your guests to bring some of theirs and pool your dinnerware together.
Keep it even classier (and eco-friendly!) by using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, which can easily be thrown in the wash using a biodegradable laundry detergent.
After all the dinner and house guests have left, do your post-holiday clean with all-natural household cleaners. Biodegradable, non-toxic and natural enzymatic cleaners are safe, powerful and cost-effective cleaning agents to help you cut through the post-holiday grime, while also keeping your surfaces and fabrics safe for you and your family.
The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper – Stanford University
Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean you don’t have to lose out on the fun tradition of sending out Christmas cards this holiday season; Evite.com offers some great premium and free options for you to send out electronic cards via email or text message to all of the special recipients on your list.
Eco-Friendly Gift Options
Feel even better about your gift giving this holiday season with some fun, creative and eco-friendly gift ideas that we posted about a few weeks ago. The best part about all of these options is that your gift recipient doesn’t have to be an environmentalist to appreciate the thoughtfulness and awesomeness of the low-impact present you’ve put under their tree.
Give the Gift of Charity
Give back this holiday season with the gift of charity. Here’s a list of 20 great local charities that you can work with this year, and help those in need.
Decorate with Nature
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are trees shedding their branches and leaves for the winter, you can collect some beautiful (and free!) table decor right off your street. Douglas Fir branches, pinecones, beautiful orange or red leaves…all can be collected as they’ve fallen on the ground to create a classic tablescape for your holiday party.
Farmer’s Markets and local stores are also a great place to stock up on locally grown flowers or succulents that you can use to adorn your table as well. Flower and branches can be composted once they’ve wilted, and you can reuse succulents as decor throughout your house long after your holiday celebrations are over.
Energy Efficient LED Lighting
If your interior and exterior holiday lights haven’t been updated in a while, it will be more energy efficient to replace them with new LED bulbs. LED lights can be longer-lasting, brighter, and save your power output by up to 90%.
On the same note, you should also sync all of your Christmas lights with a timer, which can be found at any hardware store, and will allow you to set a time to turn the lights on and off each day, saving you even more on your energy output.
Above all, the most important thing to remember about going green this holiday is this: less is more! Focus on spending time with those most important to you, and you’ll find the gifts, decorations and food are all just icing on the cake. Happy Holidays!