Have a Green Holiday

The holidays are one of my favorite times of the year. Holiday parties, Christmas cookies, and black and white Christmas movies are some of my favorite things. But don't let the idea of buy, buy, buy take over your holiday. Here are seven ways to have an environmentally friendly holiday.

1. Be careful how you wrap presents. Instead of using paper that is inevitably going to be thrown away, find a creative way to wrap the gift. If you are giving someone some kitchen items, maybe wrap the items in a kitchen towel or even cloth napkins. You can also reuse gift wrap and bags you already have on hand.

2. Give an experience. Instead of buying someone a material good with extra packaging, buy them something to do. If they enjoy the outdoors, maybe a day or weekend entrance fee to a national or state park. Or tickets to the theater or a concert. Giving someone an experience will create memories that will outlast a material good. In the same vein, consider donating to someone's favorite charity in their name as a gift as well.

3. Look for alternatives for your decorations. Many candles are made with paraffin wax, which can have some nasty side effects. Instead opt for soy candles, which are better for your health and the environment. Christmas lights can contain lead and other dangerous chemicals as well. You can go for greener alternatives, or reduce the amount you use to limit your exposure and the effect on the environment.

4. Don't go overboard on the food. It seems like this time of year there is always another event with food. But before you buy all that food for dinners or holiday parties, ask yourself if you really need it all. Chances are you'll have leftovers that will be just thrown away. So cut back on the amount of food you make, and encourage any guests to take home leftovers to enjoy.

5. Use less. Think you need a new outfit for that holiday party or that your current decorations won't work? Force yourself to use what you have in a new way, and you'll not only save money by not buying more things, but you'll help the environment too. Reducing overall consumption is a key step to sustainable living.

6. Use a timer for lights. Christmas lights can use a lot energy, so put your lights on a timer to automatically turn on and off. Set the timer to keep the lights on for a couple of hours each evening and you'll be able to enjoy your lights without worrying if you remembered to turn them off when you go to bed.

7. Bring your cloth shopping bags. I love it when I see people with cloth bags at the grocery store. But this concept applies to non-grocery stores as well. Keep a cute reusable bag in your purse or car for when you are doing your Christmas shopping (or any shopping). You'll help the environment by using less plastic or paper store bags.

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