The holidays are upon us, and with the festivities, we also consume lots of resources and generate lots of waste. There are a number of measures that all of us can take to lessen the amount of trash we produce. Here are some tips to help you plan ahead to reduce your waste and make your household green this year. : )
- The most eco-friendly option is to buy a living Christmas tree and plant it outside after Christmas. Make sure you dig the hole before the ground freezes.
- Buy a tree grown locally to save energy associated with transportation.
- Buy a smaller tree because there’s less to dispose of when you take it down, and shorter growing time translates into less land required.
- If you do buy a cut Christmas tree, take it to a tree collection center so it will be recycled for mulch for use in city’s parks and does not become part of a landfill.
Nearly all cut Christmas trees were grown on tree farms — which means their stock is replenished yearly and forests aren’t depleted. Cut Christmas trees are a much greener choice than artificial trees, which are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles before they reach your home. Unlike artificial trees, which eventually end up in the landfill, cut trees can be recycled after the holidays.
Decorate with Natural Materials
- Decorate with natural or edible items. Use decorations like strings of popcorn or dried cranberries, which can be fed to birds after the holidays. Branches, pine cones, leaves, berries and gourds are beautiful. Decorated cookies, fresh fruit and holiday candy not only look festive, they are delicious!
- Reuse old holiday cards. Display good holiday wishes from years past, or use old cards to make tree ornaments.
- Avoid foil and plastic-embossed paper because they use more resources in their manufacturing process.
- When decorating the tree, minimize the size and amount of electric lights to save energy.
- Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
- Operating lights for no more than six evening hours a day keeps energy use and costs under control. Timers are a simple and safe way to turn lights off. Set your timer to turn the lights on at dusk and leave them on until you go to bed. You’ll be able to enjoy the lights all evening without burning energy overnight. For safety, always unplug lights before going to bed or leaving home.
- Use energy efficient lighting. Most retailers stock energy-efficient LED holiday lights — made with light-emitting diodes. LED lights are 90 percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights and last longer — up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for incandescent bulbs. You can also increase your energy savings with solar powered holiday lights. Some retailers even sell strands of decorative icicles and holiday wreaths with solar panels.
- Encourage guests to carpool. This will help the environment while also promoting the use of designated drivers.
- Set out containers to collect bottles and cans for recycling.
- Make an inventory of your durable plates, glasses, linens and utensils. Estimate your number of guests and determine whether you have enough durables for the party. If not, borrow some extras from a friend or relative.
- If you must use disposables, use dishes made out of recycled paper.
- Plan meals wisely and practice portion control to minimize waste.
- Serve organic, locally-grown food and drinks. Serve beverages from pitchers or other large dispensers. If you must purchase individual drinks, buy beverages in aluminum cans or glass jars instead of plastic bottles.
- When preparing vegetable platters, fruit pies, etc. compost the leftover fruits, vegetables and peels.
- Turn down the heat a few degrees before guests arrive. All those bodies will warm up the room.
- When you’re not enjoying a fire in your fireplace, close the flue and block the hearth to prevent heat loss.
- Avoid using disposable cameras for pictures.
- Compost leftover food scraps and leaves.
- Send your guests home with leftover food. You can also donate leftover food to local food banks and shelters.
- Save and reuse party hats, decorations, and favors.
- Buy cards made from recycled paper (look for “post-consumer” content) and printed in non-toxic inks.
- Choose cards printed on white stock without metallic or plastic coatings.
- Buy cards wrapped in the least bulky or most recyclable packaging.
- Reuse the fronts of old holiday cards as gift tags.
- You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.