It's hard to believe, but according to Robert Lilienfeld, co-author of the book, "Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are," between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans throw away a million extra tons of garbage each week. During the season of giving, it sure seems like we're taking a lot from Mother Nature. Here are some suggestions of ways to go green this holiday season, and you just might save some green in the meantime.
Start with your gift giving. You may not have ever thought about it before, but some gifts are certainly more eco-friendly than others. Giving an experience, like tickets to a ballgame or an art exhibit, create much less waste than complicated toys and gadgets. And some of the best gifts can be homemade like cookies and cakes, or having guests over for a full home-cooked meal.
As you do begin warping up those presents for family and friends, consider recycling gift wrap. You can easily reuse gift bags, tissue paper, bows and even wrapping paper. For gift wrapping alternatives, think about using reusable items like scarves, handkerchiefs or bandanas. And if you just look around the house you'll probably find old posters, maps, sheet music, wallpaper scraps, magazine and newspaper cutouts, and comic pages which all work very well as wrapping paper.
If you need to ship your presents this year, avoid Styrofoam packing peanuts and try the biodegradable kind instead. You can also use crumpled up newspaper, or even dry, popped popcorn (insert a note inside the box letting the receiver know that they can later treat birds to it).
For many folks, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without a live, fragrant Christmas tree. As you search for that perfect tree, keep in mind that if you purchase a tree from a tree farm you're not damaging forests. Another option is purchasing a potted plant that can be enjoyed year round such as a Norfolk pine, fig or fichus. Artificial trees are also a good choice since they are reused every year and that saves on the gas you would spend driving to the tree farms.
To ignite your family with holiday cheer, be sure to purchase Christmas lights made with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. These lights have been around since 2001 and are ninety percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights. They also release little heat and last about 200,000 hours. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if all families replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings alone would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year.
Once you've chosen your tree, get creative with the decorations. Give it your family's personal touch by decorating it with memorabilia such as a child's first shoe or grandma's hankie scented with perfume. There's no need to go out and purchase pricey ornaments when cookie cutters, pinecones, stuffed animals and toys, and miniature toy cars work just as well.
And start the New Year off on the right foot try treecycling. By recycling your fresh tree you can make a huge difference in reducing holiday waste. Instead of ending up in a landfill, Christmas trees can be ground into wood chips and be reused as mulch gardens, or to prevent erosion. If you visit Earth911.com, you can search your zip code to find the nearest Christmas tree recycling center near you.