With a little pre-planning, it’s not difficult to “green” your holiday. Try these easy tips to make yours an eco friendly holiday!
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 an 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 footprint.
Eco Friendly Holiday Decorating
Trees: Natural or Artificial?
I buy a natural tree every year, but have always 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.
Support your 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
Consider e-cards this year, or cards made with recycled content.
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.
After the party, save your leftovers and compost unwanted food. Send extra food home with guests or donate it to charitable organizations and food banks.
Eco Friendly Holiday Travel
If you’re driving, plan ahead and try to carpool. Maybe this is the year to buy an electric vehicle!
Worried about all that holiday air travel pumping tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? 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
A gorgeously wrapped gift is always enticing, but most gift wrap can’t be recycled. Instead it ends up in a landfill. This year, try some reusable, eco friendly wrapping ideas. I save gift boxes, wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift bags in a large container for reuse. Other gift wrap ideas include newspaper, magazines, pillow cases, scarves, or pretty glass containers.
For that special gift, a beautiful piece of wrapping paper can’t be beat. To keep it eco friendly, use gift wrap made from recycled paper. I love Paper Source’s unique designs. Their paper is made with 30% post-consumer waste and they partner with sustainable forestry mills.
Note: Many municipalities won’t recycle gift wrap. Check your local waste authority. For more recycling information, check out Green That Life’s Recycling Resources page.
Eco Friendly Gifts
Consider purchasing environmentally friendly items that are recycled, reusable, and durable.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Reusable items: bags, water bottles, drinking straws, utensils.
- A gift designed to encourage eco friendly habits, such as a composting kit.
- A donation to an environmentally friendly organization.
- For “green” stocking stuffer ideas, check out Sierra Club’s suggestions.
- A subscription to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.
- Products made from recycled materials.