Dreaming of a greener Christmas: Tips for an eco-friendly holiday

Kalie Swails

The volume of waste in the average American household increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, which reported Americans produce an extra 1 million tons of trash around the holidays.

In the chaos of the holidays, being mindful of the environment is often put on the backburner. There are plenty of simple things we can all do, however, to enjoy more eco-friendly festivities without giving up turkey, biking all the way to grandma’s, or knitting your stocking out of organic hemp fiber.

Here are a few easy ways to have a greener holiday season that won’t have you seeing red.

•  Choose environmentally friendly holiday greeting cards.

Hallmark Inc., estimates about 1.5 billion Christmas cards are sent annually in the United States and those cards consume a large amount of natural resources. Such an amount requires the harvesting of nearly 300,000 trees and could fill a space the size of a football field almost 10 stories high when they’re thrown out come the season’s end. To reduce waste, purchase cards printed on recycled paper or make them yourself. Homemade cards may not look as elegant or professional, but they are more personal and will be just as appreciated by your family and friends.

•  Use your edition of the Collegian as wrapping paper.

In the United States, annual giftwrap and shopping bag waste totals over 4 million tons. In fact, according to the Recycler’s Handbook, half of all the paper consumed in the US each year is used to wrap consumer goods. When playing Santa this year, look for wrapping décor printed on recycled paper or wrap gifts in newspaper, magazine cutouts, or re-use wrapping paper from holidays past. If you do purchase giftwrapping, avoid wrapping paper with glossy foil or metallic details, as it is difficult to recycle.

•  Opt for energy-efficient decorative lighting.

Most people still use standard incandescent bulbs for holiday light displays, but decorative LED lights are now available in a variety of colors and shapes. Not only do LED lights have a much longer lifespan than standard lights, but they also reduce fire risks because they do not over heat like incandescent bulbs can.

•  Use a power strip for holiday decor.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electricity used to power appliances and electronics is actually consumed when they are turned off. Utilizing the on/off switch of a power strip allows you to fully power down decorations and also reduces the risk of fire.

•  Shop smarter this season.

Remember to take reusable bags when you do go shopping for your holiday gifts or feast. Having a holiday party? Avoid using plastic plates and cutlery, and try to buy local and organic food and beverages for your guests.

•  Give a gift that gives back.

Rather than buying items made with toxic metals or packaged with lots of plastic, make a donation in someone’s name. Donate a flock of geese or a herd of goats to support a hungry family through Heifer International, fund the planting of trees through American Forest or give the charitable gift of clean water to villages in need. You can also support your local economy by purchasing locally made gifts or let your inner elf flourish with a personal homemade gift.

•  Treecycle.

If you have a live tree in your home this season, make sure it doesn’t end up in the dump. Check out the National Christmas Tree Association’s website and enter your zip code to find the nearest of 3,800-plus locations nationwide which accept trees, or check with your local municipality to see if they will pick it up for recycling. Instead of taking up space in a landfill, treecycled evergreens are ground into woodchips which can be use to mulch gardens and parks or to prevent erosion at a local watershed.

•  Recycle old electronics.

If a new laptop, Smartphone, or other electronic gift shows up under your tree this year, make sure any outdated electronics get recycled. Some stores like Best Buy will even pay you to recycle these things. Older models of items such as computer monitors, laptops, and cell phones will also be accepted as donations at various shelters.

Last but not least, be thankful for all the goodness in your life.

Pass these tips, as well as plenty of holiday joy, on to your friends and family.