Despite one half of its traditional, green and red color palette, the holiday season isn’t the greenest time of year. Household waste increases an average of 25% in the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. There are ways to cut back on holiday waste — many of them as simple as opting for recycled wrapping paper. The best part about about cutting back on your environmental footprint this season is that it often leaves you with more time (and cash) to spend with friends and family.
- Use eco-friendly gift wrap. Seek out recycled wrap or purchase plain wrap and decorate it yourself. Forego anything glossy, metallic or glittery. Added glosses and textures intensify the amount of energy needed to manufacture holiday gift wrap — increasing emissions that pollute air and harm the environment. They also make the gift wrap more difficult or impossible to recycle.
- Recycle your gift wrap. Save large pieces for wrapping smaller gifts or for making homemade cards next season.
- Recycle your tree. If you get a real tree each year, turn it into mulch or add it to your compost pile rather than sending it to a landfill. If you’re an Indianapolis resident, you can drop it off—free of all tinsel, ornaments and lights—at any of these Indy parks after the holiday.
- Shorten your holiday card list. Come January, most of them just end up in the garbage. Send e-cards or recycled cards instead.
- Be creative with your gift wrap. Repurpose newsprint, fabric, even last year’s holiday cards for wrapping gifts. Here are some eco-friendly ideas for gift wrap alternatives.
- Use LEDs for lighting displays. They use 70% less electricity than traditional incandescent string lights, which means they’ll also save you money. Turn them off before bed and during the day — when no one will see them — to cut back on energy waste.
- Create the rustic feel of a traditional holiday by using natural materials for decorating — pinecones, dried fruit, popcorn tinsel. Involve kids in decoration-making for a fun holiday activity and a perfect opportunity to talk about how our actions impact the environment.
- Americans throw out 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags each year. Cut back on excess packaging during the holidays by keeping reusable bags handy for impromptu shopping trips; stash them away in your trunk, desk drawer or backpack so they’ll be there when you need them.
- Leave the tree in the ground. Decorate an outdoor tree or consider a Christmas tree alternative — like any of these recycled pallet creations. If you can’t bear the thought of a holiday not filled with that real pine scent, try a “living” tree. They come in a pot — roots and everything — and you can plant it in your yard in the spring.
- According to this survey, Americans plan to spend an average of $929 on gifts this year. However, 55% of Americans cite consumerism, the expense or shopping and crowds as their least favorite part of the holiday season. Alleviate some stress and consider donating to an environmental organization this year instead. Most of us can agree that we have enough “stuff” already. Donating to a friend or family member’s favorite cause in their name is a gift that makes a personal and positive impact for something bigger.
- Simplify your gift gifting with a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange with family or neighbors. Instead of buying gifts for every person individually, everyone draws one name from a hat. Not only will you have more time to spend actually enjoying the holidays, you’ll be able to focus on giving a more thoughtful, meaningful gift. You’ll also cut back on excess spending, packaging and waste.
These are only a few of the many ways you can have a green holiday season. You can also make a difference by driving and flying less, eating leftovers from get-togethers instead of throwing them out, hand-making or only purchasing gifts from fair-trade businesses, etc., etc. The list is nearly as long as Old Saint Nick’s.
The holidays are about showing the ones closest to you how much you appreciate them. So make sure you do something nice for the air this year, too.