Celebrate the Holidays in Greener Ways

The days that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are full of opportunities to celebrate. Unfortunately, many of the common ways we celebrate this happy season—eating and drinking, decorating, traveling, shopping, and gift giving, are hard on our environment. Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve than any other time throughout the year and our holiday lights consume more electricity than entire countries do in a year . Everything—from the disposable plates at your company potluck to the materials our holiday cards are made of—add up to added waste. There are ways to reduce your impact during holidays without reducing your holiday spirit! We rounded up a few of our top tips to make your holiday celebration greener:

Entertain with a local holiday feast.

When planning your menu, research food and farms in your area and support restaurants, farms, and food producers whenever possible. Additionally, choose to buy food in bulk, and serve food with washable utensils and serve ware to cut down on waste.

Make your company holiday party a zero-waste event.

If you’re planning your company’s holiday gathering this year, consider making it a zero-waste event with compostable disposable products and receptacles to make recycling and composting a breeze.

Reassess your Décor

When you unpack your holiday decorations this year, consider how energy efficient and eco-friendly they are. A few key ways to make your décor greener include:

• Decorate with Natural Materials: Instead of purchasing décor, choose materials you find in your own back yard such as pine and cedar trimmings and boughs of holly.

• Choose LED lights: Consider minimizing the number of lights you use in your holiday decorations. If you do use lights, purchase the more energy efficient LED strings (they use 90% less energy than conventional holiday lights), and use a timer to save electricity.

• Carefully Select and Dispose of your Christmas Tree: If your family celebrates the holidays with a real tree, consider choosing an organic tree, or better yet, a plantable tree. If you choose a real tree, make sure you look into local options to recycle your tree into mulch or wood chips, so it does not end up in a landfill. Contact your state cooperative extension service to learn which trees are grown in your area or trees and which trees are grown in ways to keep forests healthy and safe.

Send Eco-Friendly Cards

The eco-friendliest way to send a holiday greeting is via email. For those who can’t stand to part with their tradition of a handwritten note at the holidays (we don’t blame you!), choose cards that are made from “post-consumer” content and printed in non-toxic inks. You can also choose to reuse old cards.

Rethink your Gift Giving

There are many ways to reduce your impact through your gift giving, consider incorporating the following:

• Gift an experience. Better yet, choose an experience that also benefits your community (like local concerts and shows, sports, local attractions, and gift certificates to local businesses).
• Handmake your gifts or give your time. Consider sewing, baking, building, or creating art as a gift. Not very crafty? Share your time by offering help with cooking, gardening, cleaning, dog walking, or something else you are great at.
• Choose local gifts. If you do purchase a gift, choose one that is locally made and eco-friendly (look for recyclable products, organic products, and products made of natural materials).

Responsibly Purchase and Recycle Electronics

Black Friday and the surrounding season are a popular time to purchase electronics. When you do purchase electronics, make sure you recycle your older electronic items responsibly. Also, when possible, choose a rechargeable electronic over items with batteries.

Choose Recyclable or Reusable Gift Wrap

Most of the shimmering wrapping paper we see in stores is not recyclable. And we use a lot of it. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Instead of buying regular wrapping paper rolls, consider using reusable or recyclable materials for wrapping, such as old maps or newspapers. Better yet, make your wrapping part of your gift by using a scarf, tea towel, baking pan or another reusable container or covering. And, instead of buying gift tags, make your own with old holiday cards or other reused ore recyclable material.

Incorporating just one of these green holiday tips can make a major impact on our footprint! Consider making environmental responsibility one of your holiday traditions this year and for years to come.