Celebrate an Eco Friendly Holiday
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage each week, including holiday wrapping and packaging, according to Robert Lilienfeld. Lilienfield is co-author of the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are. Here are eight ways to reduce your environmental footprint this holiday season.
1. Make Your Own Wrapping Paper or Go Without
Most mass-produced wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Instead, here’s a great chance to get creative! Wrap presents with old maps, the comics section of a newspaper, or children’s artwork. Or use a scarf, attractive dish towel, bandana, or some other useful cloth item. Lilienfield, who has published a newsletter on reducing waste since 1996, notes that if every family reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
And not all gifts need wrapping. “Think back to your three favorite holiday memories,” Lilienfeld said. “I’m willing to bet that they all involve time you spent with your family and friends.”
By giving gifts that can be experienced, like tickets to a baseball game, a trip somewhere interesting, or a homemade dinner, you can minimize wrapping and shopping, and still win points with the receiver. “People like these gifts just as much, if not more,” he said. (Indeed, I do!)
And even if you do buy physical gifts for the holidays, you don’t necessarily have to wrap them either. A Small Footprint Family fan recently told me that at her house, she hides all the unwrapped presents around the house, and holds a scavenger hunt for the kids to find them. What a fun, clever, low-waste idea!
2. Buy Energy-Saving Holiday Lights
Thanks to technology, you can now decorate your house with LED lights that use 90 percent less energy than conventional holiday lights, and can save your family up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season! As an added bonus, LEDs release little heat, and they last about 200,000 hours. In the unlikely event that one does burn out, the rest of the lights keep on glowing. Whew!
According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year! LED lights are available at many major retailers.
3. Add Organic and Local Foods to Your Holiday Feast
Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does local, organic food taste better, but you’ll also be doing your part for your community and the planet too. Find an organic turkey or humane ham and local vegetables for holiday dinner.
4. Get a Pesticide-Free Tree
Demand is on the rise for Christmas trees that are not covered in chemicals; some growers use 40 different pesticides, as well as chemical colorants. The good news is that there are now a number of tree-farms that sell pesticide-free trees, so ask your local Christmas tree seller, or search for an organic tree farm near you.
5. Recycle Your Christmas Tree
Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. While your tree won’t fit in the recycling bin with your newspapers and bottles, you can recycle your tree: many cities offer programs to turn your tree to mulch or wood chips. Some cities even use your old trees to do important environmental projects like streambank stabilization. Call (800) CLEANUP or visit www.earth911.org to find the tree-recycling program near you.
6. Recycle Your Old Cellphone
Getting a new cell phone for Christmas? Not sure what to do with the old one? Now, you can drop off that old phone at any Staples store, as part of the Sierra Club cell phone recycling program. Each year, 130 million cell phones are thrown out, weighing approximately 65,000 tons. Recycling your old phone prevents hazardous elements like mercury, cadmium and lead from ending up in our landfills. Find out more.
7. Offset Your Travel
If you or your loved ones are traveling more than 100 miles this holiday season, try to reduce air travel whenever possible, and consider offsetting the fossil fuel pollution generated by your trip, no matter how you travel. These companies can help you get trees planted to reduce your impact.
- Terrapass – Provides carbon offsets for flying, driving, etc.
- CarbonFund – Provides a variety of carbon offset projects to choose from.
- Carbonify.com – Tree planting for offsetting carbon emissions
8. Donate Your Time or Money to an Environmental Group
Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering! There are countless ways to help improve your community—and the planet—from cleaning up a local river to helping inner city kids experience the outdoors for the first time.
How are you being green this holiday season?
We Wish You a Peaceful Holiday and an Abundant New Year!
—The Small Footprint Family
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