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Green Your Holidays

 

Make your holidays more eco-friendly with these tips for reducing waste and conserving energy while you celebrate.

  • Invite electronically. Announce your holiday get-together using online services such as Evite.com. Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive.
  • Use natural decorations. Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Create festive displays using driftwood, dried grasses, winterberries and other natural items.
  • Make your own gift wrap.  Try using old maps, the Sunday comics, a scarf or a reusable cloth bag. Send kids on a treasure hunt to find their special gifts—and skip the wrapping altogether. If gift wrap and ribbons are in good shape, save them to reuse next year.
  • Opt for LEDs. Outdoor LED holiday lights use up to 90 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and can last 20 to 30 years. Use LED lights indoors as well—on a tree, a mantel, in a menorah and in holiday centerpieces. Save even more energy by using a timer to shut lights off automatically.  Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • Bring your own bags.  Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
  • Look for the star.  Look for home or office electronic products with the Energy Star label when you shop. Many electronics use energy even when they’re “off” to power continuous features like clock displays or remote controls.
  • Pay attention to packaging. Try to purchase gifts with the least amount of packaging. Offer some gifts unwrapped such as gift cards or tickets to a show or sporting event.  If you’re shipping presents, create your own packing materials using recycled newspaper and shredded paper.  Check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials
  • Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season.
  • Eat local. Plan your menu around foods that are grown locally as well as those that are in season.
  • Lose the disposables. Pull out the cloth napkins, china, stemware and cutlery. Not only will this add a touch of class to your party, it will reduce the amount of trash. Consider renting more formal tableware that you might not use very often.
  • Provide recycling bins. Set out clearly labeled recycling bins at parties so guests can recycle bottles, cans and other items rather than tossing them in the wastebasket.
  • Give away leftovers. Send extra food home with guests or donate it to a shelter or food bank. Or freeze leftovers for another day. Where possible, compost leftover food scraps. Wash and reuse empty glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee cans, dairy tubs, and other similar containers that would otherwise get thrown away. These containers can be used to store leftovers as well as buttons, nails, or other loose items.
  • Reduce your water usage.  Preparing for and cleaning up after a holiday meals and parties can use much more water than ordinary, everyday use.  Scrape dirty dishes clean, instead of using water to rinse them before you put them in the dishwasher.  After parties, fill your dishwasher to capacity before running it.  If you don’t use a dishwasher, fill the sink with a few gallons of soapy wash water, clean your dishes, and put them aside. Then rinse them all together afterward.
  • Replant your Christmas tree. Select a small potted tree that you can replant after the holidays. Or, if you get a fresh tree, turn it into compost or send it through a chipper to make mulch. In some areas of the country you can even rent a tree. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Tree recycling ideas.
  • Use a timer.  If you going away from home for the holidays, to save energy, turn down your thermostat and put lights on timers.