With the holiday season upon us, and more people interested in a sustainable lifestyle and protecting the environment, the interest in making your holidays green has never been higher.
Luckily, there are many different ways to make your holiday season much more environmentally friendly – starting with how you handle buying and giving presents.
Here’s a list of ideas to keep in mind.
Offer Services, Not Goods
Rather than spending a lot of money on consumer goods, considering offering those on your gift list some type of service. For example, you can buy them gift certificates for a day at the spa, time with a masseuse, free music downloads, restaurant meals or auto repair service. You can also offer your own time to walk their dog, do home repairs or cook them dinners. Gifts like this, rather than a new shirt or dress, consume less and offer your loved ones a service they will appreciate.
If you go the traditional gift route, don’t purchase wrapping paper. Instead, reuse paper you already have or put your gifts in a reusable bag or box. This will cut down on the enormous amounts of waste produced in the United States during the holidays. Typically, the amount of waste increases by 25% during the holidays, according to Green America.
Also, if you decided to purchase gifts, avoid certain materials such as vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, which is found in many plastic products. Lead and cadmium are also found in many of these products. This is a good tip for anytime of the year for those interested in sustainable living.
Cards That Don’t Require Trees
There are cards on the market made from hemp and kenaf. Better yet, simply send an e-card. If you decide to buy a typical card, find one that uses recycled paper (look for the term “post-consumer” on the card).
Recycle Packing Material
All those boxes, Styrofoam peanuts and cardboard packing material that comes with gifts from your friends and family? It can be used over and over and over again and does not break down well in landfills. So instead of putting it in the garbage, keep it and use it for packing your own gifts.
Tips for Hosting Parties
If you are hosting a get together for the holidays, think about doing a “make your own decorations” party where people can have fun creating their own decorations rather than purchasing items that might just get thrown away. If you are hosting a dinner party, make sure to use reusable plates and tableware as well as cloth napkins. And when it’s all over, make sure to fill the dishwasher to capacity before running it. This will save on the number of times you run the dishwasher, saving on your overall energy output, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Many people love a holiday light display. If you buy lights, go for the LED lights, which are far more energy efficient than older bulbs. The amount of energy it takes to light just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LED lights, according to the EPA. Also, be sure to turn off the lights when you go to bed at night or leave the house entirely. No use having lights on when no one is around to appreciate them.
One thing few consider is the amount of fuel consumed simply shopping for gifts, something everyone who wants a sustainable lifestyle should consider at any time of year. If possible, shop at local stories that are within biking or walking distance or use mass transit. If you must drive to shop, wait until you can combine a number of different buying opportunities into one trip. Also, bring your own reusable bag to save on the use of paper and plastic bags.
If you buy a tree for the holidays, try to choose one that you can replant after the holidays are over or keep as a houseplant. Also, look into buying a smaller tree – do you really need one that is 8 feet tall? This will mean if you don’t keep the tree there will be less to dispose when you take the tree down.
If you keep these tips in mind through the holidays, it will be easier to keep your sustainable lifestyle through the end of the season. While tough to keep all of this in mind, simply making the attempt will improve your holiday season.
Also, the more years that you practice green living, the easier it will get with each passing holiday season. So there’s no reason not to start this year!