The winter holidays are nearly here! Some of us are ready for the festivities, but many of us are still planning and shopping for decorations and gifts and organizing holiday gatherings. We want to enjoy the fun and spirit of the season, but we don’t want to spend too much money or use too many resources in the process. And most of all, we want to enjoy quality time with those we love.
The good news is that we can participate in all these holiday activities and still manage to conserve resources. In doing so, we alsoÂ protect our environment and protecting our environment can safeguard our healthÂ now and in the future.
Whether we are traveling, sending holiday cards, decorating our homes, or choosing gifts, all of us can have “green” celebrations. Even if you already reduce, reuse and recycle, browse through the suggestions below for more ways to bring those practices into your holiday activities. If all of us make even a few eco-friendly choices, we will save energy and resources and send less trash to the landfill during this busy time of year.
Decorate with items that are energy-efficient and durable.
- Research the most energy efficient choice for your holiday tree. The choice will vary depending on your location. Below are some suggestions.
- Use other types of decorations besides trees.
- Buy an artificial tree that you can use for years to come.
- Contact your state cooperative extension service to find out about trees grown in your area or trees grown in ways that keep forests healthy and safe.
- Buy a living tree you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays,
- Buy a smaller tree so that you have less to recycle.
- Dispose of your tree at a chipping facility or return to the environment in other eco-friendly ways.
- Use energy efficiently.
- Consider using few or no lights in your holiday decorations.
- Decorate with more energy efficient LED (light emitting diodes) strings.
- Plug your decorative indoor and outdoor lights into a timer to save electricity.
- Decorate creatively and inexpensively with natural materials from your yard or with items you already own.
- Choose durable ornaments from wood, metal, or cloth rather than plastic or thin glass.
Use fewer resources when you shop, give presents, and wrap gifts.
- Take your own bags on shopping trips. Keep them in the car so they’re ready whenever you stop at a store.
- Shop online.
- Conserve energy when shopping. Use mass transit if possible. If you have to drive, combine several errands in one trip or carpool with family and friends.
- Give gifts that are durable, energy-efficient, recyclable, or made of natural products.
- Buy from local shops and craft shows or from companies that use fair-trade practices.
- Search antique and second-hand stores for unique gifts.
- Make your own gifts: knit, sew, bake, or create art from reused items.
- Make calendars using your own photographs or make a recipe book with your favorite recipes
- Give a membership or an experienceâ€”tuition for a class or a visit to museum.
- Give of your timeâ€”coupons for providing a meal, planting a garden, cleaning, or using another talent or skill.
- Plant a tree in someone’s yard.
- Use creative materials for gift wrap:
- Scarves, fabric, handkerchiefs
- Old maps, sheet music, advertisements
- Reusable tins
- Usable baking pans or other home or garden items
Give cards that are eco-friendly and save resources.
- Make your own cards.
- Buy cards made from recycled paper (look for “post-consumer” content) and printed in non-toxic inks.
- Buy cards and envelopes that can be recycled in your town. Choose cards printed on white stock without metallic or plastic coatings.
- Buy cards wrapped in the least bulky or most recyclable packaging.
- Substitute postcards for cards that require envelopes.
- Reuse the fronts of old holiday cards as gift tags.
Eat sustainable food and avoid disposable containers and extra packaging.
- Research sustainable food choices in your area and buy locally if possible.
- Buy snacks and beverages in bulk to avoid extra packaging.
- Serve food with washable utensils, plates, and glasses, rather than disposable items.
- Make homemade eggnog, hot chocolate or iced tea in large quantities, and prepare pitchers of ice water in advance to reduce waste from water and soda bottles or cans.
Choose a few of these ideas that will be easy for you to incorporate into your holiday celebration. Not only will you conserve energy and resources, but chances are you will also simplify your life. And you may get more of what we all need at this time of yearâ€”time to enjoy our families and friends and to focus on the joys of the season.