I absolutely love the holidays, but I’m acutely aware of how wasteful this time of year can be. In fact, I just read a National Geographic News article that stated that Americans produce 25 million tons of “festive rubbish” every year—yikes! And that doesn’t even take into account all the energy wasted illuminating holiday lights, all the fuel consumed shipping gifts, and all the money spent on said gifts. What’s an eco-conscious person to do?
Here are some easy ways to make this Christmas a little greener and still have fun—no Grinches here!
Trees. When I was an apartment dweller, real trees weren’t allowed, so I bought a fake one at an after-Christmas sale. It’s still got a few years of use left in it, so I’m going to keep assembling and taking it down until it croaks. Then I’m switching to real trees, because fake ones can have some pretty nasty ingredients in them, such as PVC and even lead. Plus there’s the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping the trees. If you purchase a fake tree, make sure it’s a sturdy one that will last for quite some time so it’s worth the impact on the environment.
Are real, cut Christmas trees more your style? If so, look for organic tree farms near you or ask around for vendors of sustainably grown trees in your area. And read up on Sierra Club’s tips for buying and giving holiday trees.
Better still, buy a living Christmas tree that you can plant once the holiday is over. Learn all about the benefits of buying balled and burlapped trees for planting later from this article. (If the ground isn’t frozen in your part of the country yet but it might soon, dig a hole for your live tree now!) Or buy small trees or tree-like potted plants that you can decorate for the holiday and keep around all year—that’s what my mom did last year, below, and it was adorable!
Lights. String energy-efficient LED holiday lights indoors and out. (They’re now available in most places where standard holiday lights are sold.) LED lights come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors and, in addition to lasting a lot longer than standard Christmas lights, can reap big energy savings for your home. Or go solar with these holiday lights from Gaiam.
Decorations. It’s simple. Make your own. You can easily create your own wreaths, ornaments, and other décor. Or just decorate less. A festive candle here, an organically grown Christmas tree strung with LED lights there, stockings you made yourself hung by the chimney with care … what more do you really need?
Greetings. If you’re sending holiday wishes this year, how about e-cards rather than print ones (which inevitably end up in the landfill, no matter how witty your prose). Or if you insist on old-fashioned greetings (they are fun to give and receive, aren’t they?), look for cards made with recycled paper.
I’m intrigued by ReProduct greeting cards and envelopes—the cards come in two-way envelopes (sort of like Netflix) with pre-paid return postage to Shaw Industries. When the recipients finish with the cards, they stick them in return envelopes and drop them in the mail. Shaw uses 100 percent of the cards and envelopes to create carpet backing for new carpet tiles. Cool, huh?
Here’s one more idea worth trying: send natural holiday cards that come embedded with seeds. Once spring rolls around, the recipient can plant the whole darn card, water it, and watch as flowers or even trees sprout from the ground. Try Green Field Paper’s Grow-A-Note cards or pretty plantable paperworks from Botanical Paperworks.
Gifts. Buy fewer, more meaningful gifts. Or consider making donations to recipients’ favorite charities instead. If you can’t get out of the gift-giving cycle, buy local to support your community’s economy and cut down on the fossil fuels used for packaging and transportation. And check out Treehugger’s gift guide for eco-friendly ideas for everyone on your list.
Parties. I absolutely love throwing holiday parties. Every year I get my girlfriends together for a fete at my place, during which we overindulge in homemade treats and tasty drinks, listen to Christmas music, and catch up. But there’s always room to go green.
This year I’m going to say no to disposable plates, cups, and silverware. If you don’t have enough glass dishes for your party, pick up an assortment from Salvation Army or ask a friend to loan you some. And if you’re dreading cleaning all those dishes, enlist some help. With a glass of wine and your closest friends or family members armed with dish towels by your side, it’s not so bad!
During the party, also be sure to set out bins or bags for recycling paper, aluminum, glass, and such. (Just be sure you label the recycling clearly—last year my paper recycling bin ended up filled with chocolate-covered strawberry tops!)
For more eco-friendly holiday decorating and entertaining ideas, head over to The Decorating Diva.
Keep reading the blog this month too, because there are plenty more festive, green tips to come—next week I’ll fill you in on green gift-wrapping ideas, then later in the month I’ll highlight the best ways to recycle that lovely Christmas tree (if you can’t plant it).
(Oh, and if it’s too late to implement some of these green tips this year, don’t despair! That’s what bookmarks are for, so you can come back and try these pointers out in 2008!)
The Home Know-It-All