The holidays are a time for celebrating family traditions and enjoying festive gatherings. Unfortunately holidays also can have an unintended impact on the environment. Take trash for example: According to the Nature Conservancy, household waste in the US increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, and trash from gift wrap and gift bags alone totals 4 million tons annually.
No matter what holidays you celebrate, there are many ways to make them greener. Getting creative when it comes to wrapping gifts can provide a second life to old newspaper, paper grocery bags, and gently used wrapping paper. You can even eliminate paper wrap all together: a scarf, t-shirt, reusable shopping bag, festive container, or other similar item can be used to wrap a gift.
sustainable t-shirt gift wraps
Choosing seasonal, locally grown foods means that your ingredients didn’t have to travel across the country to get to your point of purchase. Heating several side dishes together and resisting the temptation to open the oven door to peek reduces energy use. You can even strive for zero waste by using real dishes, cups, flatware and napkins rather than disposable goods and finding recipes that will help use up any leftover food.
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Both disposable and rechargeable batteries can become an environmental hazard if they are not recycled and properly disposed. While outdoor lighting displays can add to your home’s appearance, choosing LED lights and turning them off during the day will save energy. For inside the home, opt for beeswax or soy candles rather than paraffin; they are made from renewable sources, burn longer and produce less soot.
Rather than purchasing pre-made decorations for your home, consider bringing the outdoors in and decorating using natural elements. Sustainable arrangements and garlands made from seasonal fruit like apples and cranberries, dried flowers and pods, and fresh greenery such as holly, pine or magnolia branches from your yard look beautiful and smell great. When it’s time to undeck the halls, these materials can be added to your compost pile.
Real or fake tree? The debate goes on, but most experts agree that real trees are the more environmental choice. The majority of cut trees are grown on farms as a crop, are replanted after harvesting, and can be recycled into mulch. Many municipalities and some local businesses offer free tree recycling. In some cases, the resulting mulch is used for parks, school grounds, and other public areas.
Sustainable Wreath Idea
Want to know how, where, or when to recycle something? The Alabama Environmental Center’s RecycleAL.org website is a great local resource for information about most things recyclable.