It’s a time to give, but it’s also a time to give back. As we tend to consume more and increase household waste as much as up to 25% over the holiday season, we can also look at lowering our carbon footprint and finding gifts that give some of the proceeds to charities as well. Here’s a few tips for an eco-friendly holiday season:
1. Live Christmas Trees - this is something my family did every year. My parents bought a live tree that had the roots wrapped up in burlap and they placed it in a giant tub that we covered in red velvet. Sure, the tree could never be seven feet tall because the ball was at least two feet high, but you know what it did give us? The side of my parent yard lining the street has all of our Christmas trees still growing there and all these years later they are now 60-70 feet tall. A lovely reminder of all the wonderful Christmases we’ve had together. If you don’t have a yard to plant your tree, donate it to a local park or a friend for their yard. You can buy living trees from many nurseries. There are also nurseries now in which you can rent a live tree for the holidays. They drop it off and pick it back up after Christmas. Check and see online if there are any in your area.
2. Wrap Green – use recycled paper, shopping bags, pages from old books or newspapers and holiday stamps to create homemade wrapping paper. I also love cloth squares or cloth gift bags to wrap gifts. They will always be used again. This style of wrapping in Japan is called tsutsumi and is considered an art form and integral part of the gift itself. For some lovely tsutsumi wrapping ideas check out this site. When it comes to ribbon, I use fabric ribbon and I make sure to save it for reusing on next years gifts.
3. Solar Outdoor Christmas Lights – initially they cost a little more, but once you have them up, there’s no raising of your electrical bill. And they do work. I have solar outdoor lights that have been up for two years and they work just as well today as when I first put them up. Target is a good place to look for them and Philips, a trusted brand in lighting, has some of the top styles for the holidays. A string of 50 solar powered white twinkle lights sells for $19.99.
4. Trip Your Tree in LED Lights – here to is another area to boost energy saving. Electricity costs raise with the demand, so in the season where so many people are using Christmas lights, even the cost of non-holiday, every day use raises too. LED lights are also more durable than the small incandescent bulbs, so the theory is they will last longer. Some people are bothered by the “flicker” that some LED lights produce. Look for LED Christmas lights that are advertised as “flicker free” or sometimes “full wave.” They still flicker, but they flicker much faster (120 times per second) than the human eye can detect. GE LED lights are the most popular brand that rate high by consumers.
5. Gifts That Give Back - every year major stores such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, and brands such as KitchenAid offer products that when you purchase, part of the proceeds go towards different charities. Sephora even has their own charity initiative – the Sephora Project. If there is a particular charity that you are interested in, such as breast cancer awareness, look for those. I’m happy to say there is a huge selection of charity gifts for the girls in your life, but when it comes to guys…many of their favorite brands are behind the times. I still can’t believe a major tool company such as Craftsman hasn’t come out with a holiday tool or two that the proceeds go to prostate cancer. Oh, well… a girl can dream.
6. Buy Local and Cut Out the Shipping - I know we all love Amazon because they ship, but know that shipping not only uses fuel to get the product there, but think about all the packing materials as well that are not eco-friendly. What to do if you need to give gifts to those in different cities than you? Buy local and have them ship, or work out a deal with one of your relatives to do a store pick up, especially for toy and electronic items at major chains. Chances are they have to go there anyway. Local doesn’t just mean products, this also can mean food as well. Think of local farmers and artisans when stocking up for those holiday parties and meals.
7. Buy American – not only will it boost our economy, but again, shipping of domestic items are a huge downside to these items. According to Earth Justice, “Ships transport 90 percent of the world’s consumer goods,” and in doing so generate 15 to 30 percent of the world’s emissions. And while you’re buying American, look for companies that use recycled materials as gift for some on your list.
8. Use Real Greens to Decorate the House - garlands and wreaths made from natural materials are better for the environment than plastic ones. Plastics are usually made from petroleum and PVC which can be a potential source of hazardous lead. The plastic and metals used to make these decorations are not bio-degradable. I know plastic trees and decorations have become popular in recent years over real trees due to fire hazards (a misnomer because well-watered real trees cause less damage in a fire than even flame retardant artificial trees in studies done by fire departments), and the fact that artificial more and more look like the real thing, but you have to balance that out against the carbon footprint costs of them as well. We don’t want our landfills loaded with non-bio degradable memories of Christmas Pasts!
Here’s hoping that the days and nights of your Holiday Season are merry and bright and green!