Written by Sarah HancockSarah Hancock is passionate about green living and sustainability. She frequently writes about renewable energy and manages the Solar blog at BestCompany.com.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away one million extra tons of garbage every week between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Further, we use more electricity on holiday lights than some countries use in an entire year. This unnecessary waste could easily be avoided if we all made a few minor adjustments to our holiday routine. Consider putting some of the following tips into practice to be a little kinder to the environment this year.
Gift giving is one of the most loved parts of the holiday season, but it also creates a significant amount of waste. You can reduce your consumption impact by making your own gifts to give away; giving experiential gifts such as event tickets, memberships, or lessons of some type that minimize shopping and wrapping; or purchasing eco-friendly gifts made from sustainable materials. You can also be more eco-friendly by making your own wrapping paper or going without it all together. Most mass-produced wrapping paper can't be recycled due to the shiny coatings, foils, and colors, and therefore usually ends up in a landfill. Alternatives to traditional wrapping paper include newspaper, reusable bags and boxes, and even wearable items like scarves or bandanas.
When it comes to Christmas trees, there are a number of ways to get creative and reduce your environmental impact. For example, instead of a putting up a traditional tree in your home, consider decorating a houseplant. If your heart is set on a traditional tree, the next best option is to purchase an artificial Christmas tree that you'll be able to use for years to come. If an artificial tree isn't an option and you choose to go with a living tree, buy it from an organic tree farm and don't forget to recycle it after the holidays.
Food is a holiday staple that brings families and friends together. If you're planning a holiday feast this year, think about adding local, organic foods to your shopping list. Not only will your meal taste delicious, but you'll also be doing your part for your community and the planet by supporting farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce.
According to USA Today, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it expects to deliver over 15 billion pieces of mail this holiday season, a 10 percent increase from last year. All this mail means increased carbon emissions from delivery vehicles, which hurts the environment. Go greener by cutting your subscriptions to holiday catalogs, sending e-cards rather than traditional cards, and recycling the Christmas cards you do receive after the holidays are over.
The Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays are among the busiest long-distance travel times of the year, which results in a higher level of fossil fuel pollution during these periods. If it's not necessary for you to travel during the holiday season, don't. However, if you do travel during the holidays, consider reducing your environmental impact by donating to an organization that plants trees to offset carbon emissions, such as Terrapass, CarbonFund, or Carbonify.com.
Thanks to technological advances, you can now decorate your house with LED Christmas lights, which use 90 percent less energy than conventional lights and can help you save money on your energy bill during the holiday season. You could also consider investing in a solar power system to offset a higher percentage of your electricity use with clean energy, not just during the holidays, but year round.