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Monday, December 8, 2008

Ways to Go Green During the Holiday Season

This holiday season many people trade in their normal routines for more convenient ones. With all of the entertaining and need for quick meals during frenzied shopping trips many consumers will find themselves doing more harm to the environment than they normally would.

Here are some ideas to stay green while you enjoy this time of year:

1. Monitor your trash and recycle. During the holiday season people buy more, use more and therefore throw away more trash. It is estimated that Americans throw away almost 5 billion extra tons of trash during the holiday season. From wrapping paper to gift packaging the amount of trash increases nearly 25%. This year try using recycled paper for your wrapping such as newspaper, and be sure to recycle everything you can. Be sure to bring cloth tote bags with you while you shop!

2. Assess your carbon cost. Millions of people travel during the holidays and increase the carbon emissions. If you are taking a flight see if you can make up the difference somewhere else. Try car pooling on your shopping trips and getting as much done in a single trip as possible. Keep your thermostat turned down at nighttime and turn off your holiday lights. You may consider using LED lights which burn longer than regular bulbs, and soy candles instead of wax candles which are both cleaner during production and usage.

3. Buying a fake tree is worse than cutting down a real one. This may seem illogical, but the facts are overwhelming. Artificial trees are made from non-recyclable materials and emit a ton of greenhouse gases during production. Real trees, on the other hand, release oxygen and take in carbon dioxide while they grow and are easily replanted. Most Christmas trees come from tree farms that continue to replant year after year. Worldwise reports that for every fresh-cut tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place.

4. Purchase eco-friendly gifts. Nowadays it's much easier to get your hands on ecologically friendly gifts. From charitable donations to homemade foods, eco-friendly gifts are a great idea for anyone. Give someone in your family some of your old jewelry and I'm sure they'll be happier than if you bought it. Create baskets of goodies right in your own kitchen and ask the recipient to recycle the basket by using it or giving it back for next year's gift giving. Visit websites of organizations like Heifer International and the World Wildlife Fund to give a gift to those in need in a friend's honor. If gift giving can't be escaped in your family, suggest a "Secret Santa" method so that everyone is responsible for giving and receiving gets just one gift. Check out or for an excellent selection of green gifts.

5. Serve organic food that supports local farmers. Whenever possible purchase and use local produce. It supports your community and those small time farmers who are trying to survive in a world where conglomerate corporations control everything. You'll feel good about it and the food will taste better. Organic food can be more expensive but it is well worth it. Shop at a Whole Foods Market or health food store for the best variety, but visit your local supermarket for some options as well. The food you serve your guests will be chemical free and better for everyone. Organic wine is also more readily available at reasonable prices.

Most importantly, don't use the stress of this time of year to change your ways. If you are normally an eco-friendly person, don't allow the pressures of our society to cause you to fold. Although the big companies don't want you to know it, you don't have to buy into their holiday to celebrate. Create your own and we'll all be better for it.


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