The holidays can be a magical time of year for many reasons, but the reality is that the environment suffers. According to the Ecology Center, Americans throw away an additional 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's eve. It's not hard to imagine how the holidays can wreak environmental havoc, what with overproduction and excessive purchasing of consumer goods, pounds of discarded gift wrap, product packaging, and food waste, thousands of Christmas trees cut down for less than one month of use, and gallons of fuel used for the transport of goods and holiday travel. However, there are little things we can all do to help reduce the toll on the environment. Here are 10 ways to green your holiday season:
1. Group gift exchange. For large office or family gatherings, instead of buying an individual gift for each person, adopt a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa (or cultural equivalent) gift exchange tradition.
2. Get creative with gift wrap. Wrap presents in colorful magazine pages, leftover wallpaper, or reusable gift bags and boxes. For large items, how about using a reusable fabric bag? Paper grocery bags also offer another great gift wrapping canvas, and you can charge your kids with the task of decorating the paper!
3. Put your lights on a timer. Set a timer on your indoor and outdoor lights to prevent wasting electricity during the late-night hours when no one's looking anyhow.
4. Go digital with your greetings. If all of your family and friends are on e-mail, save time, paper, and postage by emailing out a family newsletter or digital card.
5. Make wishes known. Avoid giving and getting unwanted gifts by asking loved ones for wish lists and sharing your and your kids' wish lists. You can also opt to create online wish lists at services such as Amazon.com.
6. Make gifts. Reduce use of packaging, fuel, and more by making your own gifts. And it doesn't need to be a huge time sink! Check out these 10 easy DIY food gift ideas. Have friends or family with a new baby? Best gift ever = a homemade entrée.
7. Give the gift of time. Instead of material items, give your time by volunteering for organizations in need (here are some great ideas for engaging kids in volunteerism). The gift of time with family or friends is also huge too; instead of swapping gifts, meet up for coffee or breakfast, or spend time with a niece or nephew.
8. Be mindful of the trees. By early January each year, thousands of trees are discarded curbside waiting to be brought to landfills. Consider instead decorating a live, potted tree that can be replanted, purchasing an artificial tree to use repeatedly, or repurposing your tree for firewood.
9. Have a leftovers party. Avoid food waste by hosting a potluck-style, post-holiday gathering to eat up every morsel of those delicious holiday leftovers.
10. Donate the excess. The reality is, you'll probably receive some duplicate or unnecessary items for the holidays. Instead of wasting fuel (both person and car-wise!), donate everything to families in need.
Do you have other great ideas for how you green your holidays? Feel free to share in the comments!
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