Even with the challenges that 2020 has hurled at us, with a little planning, it’s easy to “green” your holiday. Try these easy tips to make yours an eco friendly holiday!
Table of Contents
- An Eco Friendly Holiday Mindset
- Eco Friendly Holiday Decorating
- Eco Friendly Shopping
- Eco Friendly Entertaining
- Eco Friendly Holiday Travel
- Green Your Holiday Gifts
- After the Holidays: Proper Disposal
An Eco Friendly Holiday Mindset
If there’s one tip to remember for an eco friendly holiday, it’s this one: Keep the waste to a minimum. The more you reduce the accumulation of stuff, the more likely you’ll reduce packaging, single-use plastic, and unwanted junk. By focusing more on enjoying time spent with friends and family, you’ll quickly find that this mindset benefits the environment as well!
Another way to maintain your eco friendly holiday mindset is to minimize the carbon footprint of your activities. Just like a footprint in the sand that leaves a mark, a carbon footprint is the mark humans, or human-related entities, leave on the environment through greenhouse gas emissions. The greater the carbon footprint of any activity, the greater the contribution to climate change. So this holiday season, try these tips geared to minimizing your environmental impact.
Eco Friendly Holiday Decorating
Trees: Natural or Artificial?
I buy a natural tree every year, but have long wondered which is better for the environment: natural or artificial? The answer isn’t clear-cut, but the best option is a potted, native tree. If that’s not possible, reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing a locally grown tree. For more information on the carbon footprint of your tree, use Omni Calculator’s handy Christmas Tree Footprint Calculator.
For an artificial tree, the biggest impact on the environment comes from production and transportation, so the key is to reuse the tree for at least ten years.
A relatively new option is Christmas tree rental services that purport to be eco friendly and convenient. This type of service rents out potted trees to be replanted after the holidays.
How should you dispose of your tree in an environmentally responsible manner? Try one of these methods:
- Compost the tree in a backyard compost system.
- Recycle the tree. Earth 911 has a handy searchable database to find a tree recycling center in your area.
- Up-cycle it into a natural sand fence to help control beach erosion.
All that holiday lighting can be a drain on your energy usage and your wallet. LED lights are the most energy-efficient and consume 70% less energy than conventional incandescent lights. Some are even solar powered!
According to the Department of Energy, LED lights are also more cost-effective: “it only costs $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights. On top of that, they are significantly less likely to burn out or break compared to their incandescent forerunners.”
To maintain a lower carbon footprint, unplug lights when not in use or use a timer to regulate usage.
Eco Friendly Shopping
Green Your Shopping Trip
Before you head out the door, don’t forget to grab your reusable shopping bags and water bottle!
What could be better than purchasing a gift that benefits others and the environment? Plug-ins such as DoneGood offer a simple way to discover hundreds of socially and environmentally responsible brands. While shopping, keep the waste to a minimum and look for gifts with minimal or reusable packaging.
Now more than ever, it’s important to support our local merchants and retailers by shopping for gifts in your hometown. You’ll also use less gas and reduce the carbon footprint of your purchases. You might even consider walking or biking to your destination. One way to keep it local is to purchase gift certificates from area restaurants and food purveyors.
Online shopping keeps you out of your car, but the carbon footprint from transporting all those purchases can be high. In addition, the packaging can be an enormous waste.
When possible, plan ahead to avoid rush shipping. According to a recent study by MIT that compared brick-and-mortar shopping to online shopping, buying online typically has a lower carbon footprint except when online shoppers choose rush delivery. Opting for a slower shipping time gives the shipper time to load up and schedule deliveries more efficiently.
Eco Friendly Entertaining
For a complete guide on how to green any party – small or large – see Green That Life’s post on How to Throw a Low-Waste Party, but here are some general tips for keeping your holiday gathering planet-friendly.
If you’re having a crowd over, keep disposable party supplies to a minimum and opt for eco friendly alternatives.
Remember, keep your carbon footprint to a minimum by shopping local, when you can, for locally sourced food. Consider buying extra for those in need.
Eco Friendly Holiday Travel
Most of us are unable to leave home this year to visit loved ones or enjoy a vacation far from home, but if you must travel this holiday season, protect yourself and others by adhering to proper safety precautions.
If you’re driving, consider renting an electric vehicle — an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint. Another money-saving, environmentally friendly option is public transportation, which can be safe as long as you follow appropriate safety precautions.
The same (and then some!) safety concerns apply if you’re flying, but air travel layers an additional environmental impact of increased greenhouse gas emissions. Ideally, you’d keep your air travel to a minimum or travel direct, but one way to minimize the carbon footprint of your air travel is to purchase carbon offsets from reputable sources and/or fly like a NERD.
Green Your Holiday Gifts
Instead of using reams of paper to wrap your gifts, try out some environmentally-friendly alternatives that are attractive and low-waste options.
Also, most gift wrap can’t be recycled. Check your local waste authority and for more recycling information, visit Green That Life’s Recycling Resources page.
Eco Friendly Gifts
Look for gifts that are made from recycled and/or reclaimed materials and that are made to last. Another option is a gift that supports a worthy environmental cause. These green gifts for good deliver double the enjoyment – for the recipient and for the environmental cause they support!
For a complete list of planet-friendly gifts, see Green That Life’s Eco-Friendly Gift Giving Guide or if you’re just looking for a great enviro-themed book to give, take a look at the Green Book Gift Guide.
After the Holidays: Proper Disposal
Proper disposal is a critical part of keeping your holiday festivities green. Even if you’ve kept waste to a minimum, you’ll still have stuff you need to get rid of. Before throwing everything in the trash, sort through what you have to reduce, reuse, recycle (and “rot”):
- Donate or sell any gifts that you don’t want but could be enjoyed by others.
- Reuse decorations and other items for future holidays.
- Recycle items that are recyclable, but check Green That Life Recycling Resources Guide first to see what’s actually recyclable.
- Save or freeze leftovers. Store, freeze, or re-purpose food for future meals. Green That Life’s post on how to store leftovers will get you started.
- Compost or food recycle. If you can, compost unwanted food in a backyard setting or through a commercial compost facility.