How to Green Your Holiday in 9 Easy Steps
Did you know that with the coming of the holidays, the U.S. sees a significant rise in trash? Just think about all of the things you throw away during the holiday season. First there are the greeting cards that, at most, last the month before being thrown away. Then there are all of those plastic shopping bags, packaging from boxes, bubble wrap, gift wrap, tags, bows, decorarions and the endless sea of disposable dinnerware. We’re not even going to get into the issue of christmas trees. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Here are some pretty horrifying statistics.
An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high.
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products.
The Recycler's Handbook
The average American spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season. According to a national survey, 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending.
American Research Group/ Center for a New American Dream
Nearly 60% of Americans receive unwanted holiday gifts each year and 52% re-gift unwanted gifts.
For many of us, forfeiting holiday gift giving or sending holiday cards just isn’t an option. And what would the holidays be without a large spread of food for the party? But there are lots of solutions to the many environmental issues that the holiday’s bring. If you’re trying to green your holiday party, it’s not impossible, actually it’s pretty easy and fun! Try some of our tips that will help to minimize your carbon footprint and help to green your holiday event
Trade Traditional Wrapping Paper for Craft Paper.
According to Earth 911, “A common mistake many people make around the holidays is loading their recycling bins with wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons and more. Unfortunately, the shiny, laminated paper is actually not recyclable. Including it in the bin with other paper products can make an entire load un-recyclable.” Your good intentions can actually be super harmful to the environment. Although you can’t control what other give you, you can control what you give to others! We love Craft paper because you can customize it to your taste and add a little bit of a rustic feel to your presentation. Don’t be discouraged by the price tag. The honest truth is that these rolls might just last you well into your senior gift giving years! The best part is that craft paper is made from recycled material and is non coated; making it recyclable! You can use it for gift wrap, for custom table runners, and even for kids art projects. The uses are endless and not only limited to the holidays.
Trade Plastic for Compostable Dinnerware.
Let’s face it. Everyone hates to do dishes after a huge holiday party. For many of us, we also hate the thought of throwing away single use plastic dinnerware. You might be thinking, “Well why not just recycle plastic dinnerware?” Much of the plastic dinnerware placed in recycling bins end up not being recyclable in practice, due to food contamination. So, unless you’re vigilant about rinsing plastic dinnerware, this option doesn’t make much sense. And if you think about it, if you’re going to go through all of the trouble of rinsing all of that plastic, you mind as well use your china. What’s more, most disposable dinnerware is made from #6 plastic. Unfortunately, many recycling programs don’t accept #6, making this option very limited. So what should you do? The next best thing is to opt for dinnerware that is both strong, made from non tree products and easily biodegradable. We love Eco-Products compostable line of dinnerware. These guys use sugarcane as their fiber of choice. Sugarcane is super renewable, sustainable and easily biodegradable. We also love Emerald Brand for their tissue products. These guys opt for bagasse, bamboo and eucalyptus fibers. Both of these companies use non tree products and are a great option for any party.
Use LED Lights Instead of Incandescent.
This one isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for your wallet too! If you are in the market to replace broken or otherwise unusable holiday lights, LED is the way to go. Care2.com did a study looking at what it costs to light a standard christmas tree for 12 hours over the course of 40 days. LED lights will cost you about $.56, while incandescent will cost a whopping $25.13! That’s a huge difference! Going green sure pays off!
Real vs Fake trees
This one is a toss up depending on your views and how well you care for your holiday decorations. There are definite pros and cons for both fake and real christmas trees, but overall opting for a real tree wins over a fake one and here’s why.
Pros: Many real trees come from plantations where they are grown, harvested and regrown on a continual cycle. At the end of the holiday season, the trees can be mulched up and used to feed plants or for some other environmental purpose. You also free up valuable storage space in your home when you don’t have to store a fake tree. In some places around the country, leftover Christmas trees are used to rehabilitate coastal wetlands that have been eroded by hurricanes. They are also used to provide nesting habitats for some birds.
Cons: Many farmers use pesticides that are toxic to wildlife and, in some cases, to people. Roundup, a popular and cheap pesticide has been found to be toxic to some birds and fish and was recently discovered to be toxic to human cells. Then there’s the increased fire hazard when trees dry up as well as dealing with all of those pesky pine needles.
Pros: They are cheaper over the long run and easy to put up and take down, there is also less mess and you wont have to deal with pesky pine needles at the end of the season. There is also less likelihood of fires, as modern trees now sport LED lights and flame-retardant coatings. They are great if you are the type of person to take extreme care of your holiday decorations. A well taken care of tree can last forever. literally.
Cons: Fake trees are made from the plastic polyvinyl chloride or PVC. PVC is a hormone disruptor and many fake trees have also been found to be contaminated with lead. Many come with a warning label advising you to wash your hands after handling them to prevent ingestion of the brain-damaging metal. Plastic trees can’t be recycled either and end up in landfills. This option is best for people who are super loyal to their purchases for the long haul.
Gift Receipts Please!
There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a holiday gift you can’t use or simply don’t like. But there’s is always a light at the end of the tunnel when you come across a gift receipt in the box. YAY! Spread the joy of the gift receipt so your family wont let your thoughtful (or thoughtless) purchases go to waste. It’s better for them to return something they know they wont use as opposed to letting your gift waste away in a bottom drawer.
Decorate with Keepsakes Instead of Store Bought Ornaments.
Your niece’s first baby shoe, your mother’s favorite pendant, your daughter’s first attempt at finger painting. Turn them all into gorgeous ornaments. There’s nothing more beautiful than your very own memories. To start the tradition, ask each member of your family for something that is important to them to add to your tree. Add a pretty ribbon and a handmade label for each item so you can remember where each piece originated. Something simple like the persons name and the year will do. One of our Shopletters has this tradition with her own family. “My tree has christening baby shoes and pacifiers from nieces and nephews, a favorite broach that once belonged to my grandmother, my grandfather’s eye glasses, keepsakes from arts and crafts my children made and a menagerie of other items from friends and family. It’s nice to decorate this way because when people come to visit, there is always an interesting story to tell. Memories never go out of style!”
If you are gifting to your own nuclear family, why not opt out of gift wrapping altogether! Introducing the holiday sack. These function similarly to stockings but are much larger to accommodate bigger gifts. You can have a holiday sack for each person in your family and your kids can rummage through the bag when it’s time to exchange gifts. It’s a fun, waste free and eco friendly alternative to nuclear family gift exchanging.
When it comes to holiday greetings, opt for a holiday e-card. Sending a snail mail card has its charm, but the environmental impact is not worth all of the fuss. Just think about the time spent filling out cards, writing addresses, running out to buy stamps and then heading off to the post office in the bitter cold to mail them. The end result will be your recipient reading them and then simply throwing them away at the end of the season. Sounds like a whole lot of trouble to us. With so many e-card options available, you can send cards ranging from silly to sophisticated. There are even animated options! You’ll save yourself tons of time, money and envelope licking.
Salvage gift wrappings whenever possible
Many of you probably already do this, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Whenever possible, try to reuse gift bags, boxes and ribbons whenever possible. Not only do you save these items from ending up in a landfill, you’ll also save money purchasing gift wrapping for next year’s gift exchange!