The hustle and bustle of the holidays is fully upon us. The family gatherings, the dinner parties, the shopping, the gifts, the … trash! Have you ever noticed how your trash cans are overflowing in the days following your holiday get-togethers? While there’s no need to radically change your holiday traditions, there are simple things you and your family can do to create eco-friendly holidays. You can “green” up your holidays and — bonus — save some green too!
1. Choose eco-friendly gifts.
While out shopping for family and friends, why not shop with the environment in mind? Look for items made from recycled materials like glass, metal, plastic, or paper. Or give gifts that get used up, like soap, food, or candles. You can also give gifts that help people cut down on waste. Reusable grocery or produce bags and refillable water bottles come in a large variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. And they do more than just save landfill space — they also save the resources used in making and transporting the disposable versions.
2. Donate to a cause or give your time.
There’s nothing to wrap or throw away when you donate to a loved one or friend’s favorite cause. Making a gift donation in someone’s name is a good choice for parents or grandparents who don’t need more “stuff.” Or encourage teenagers to give the gift of their time, like offering to babysit, doing yard work, or spending time with a grandparent. Even young kids can make coupons promising to do their chores and get homework done.
3. Green up your gift wrap.
For gifts that need to be wrapped, instead of spending money on store-bought wrapping paper that ends up in a landfill, make your own wrapping from newspaper, magazines, or catalogs. Finding interesting types of paper or painting scrap paper can be fun for kids. Or use fabric items to wrap gifts — for example, wrapping a cookbook in a dishtowel, or clothing in a scarf. Reusable gift bags are another eco-conscious way to present gifts.
4. Decorate with the planet in mind.
Holiday lighting can be a big energy user, so try to find efficient lighting such as LED lights or simple candles in the windows. Turn outdoor lighting displays off when you go to bed or if you’re not at home. If you light candles, choose natural ones made with beeswax or soy instead of petroleum-based ingredients.
5. Make your own greeting cards.
Have your kids create their own cards using the computer or art supplies and recycled paper. Better still, go paperless with e-cards to set the stage for your eco-friendly holidays.
6. Reuse and recycle.
As you plan your event or celebration, keep in mind ways to reduce waste, like using rechargeable batteries in electronic items. If you or your kids receive gifts you can’t return or use, pass them on to someone who can — or donate them to a charity resale shop.
7. Keep it living.
If you put up a Christmas tree, consider a live tree that can be replanted after the holidays; or use a chipper to turn a cut tree to mulch. Trim your tree the “old-fashioned” way with popcorn and cranberry strings. Then let your kids hang them outside for the birds to enjoy when the holidays are over. Decorate your eco-friendly holidays table with natural items like pine cones, berries, and flowers purchased locally.
Are you hosting a holiday gathering? If you’ll be cleaning in advance of your party, try using natural and non-toxic cleaning products. You can find lots of cleaning products now that don’t contain harsh chemical solvents, chlorine, ammonia, or synthetic fragrances. And don’t forget that baking soda or vinegar mixed with a little water also makes a good multipurpose cleaner.
Being eco-friendly for the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. And just think of the impact we can have on our planet, even if we all only try one or two items on this list! Have a very happy — and green — holiday season.