Have a Green Holiday Season: 10 Easy Tips

Green holidays

This year, instead of a white Christmas, why not strive for green? Eco-friendly, green holidays, that is. Whether you're into Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas or something else, there's a common theme that can run through all holidays: complete lack of regard for the environment. While I love the ideology behind the holidays, I think the execution of that ideology has run amok.

When we're in the season of supposed giving and yet we feel the need to run someone down while screaming obscenities and flipping them the bird from our car window just because they found rock star parking at the mall, we have a problem. And, when we feel obligated to buy something for someone we don't really like because we just "should", we have a problem.

Sorry to digress, but all of this obligatory over-consumption has a price that goes way beyond the credit card balance you'll be paying until March. This year, why not scale back just a bit and save some energy, trees, landfill space, money and sanity in the process?

1. Buy less - Buying new products made of new materials increases our overall impact on the environment. Notice I did not say "give less." If you're really into giving, there are scads of ways to do so without buying products that will likely end up one day in a landfill. Try giving experiences instead: a gift certificate for a nice lunch out or a spa treatment for friend at work. I once bought a guy I was dating a series of classes so he could become SCUBA certified. Although we didn't end up together, that gift will give him joy each and every time he goes diving. You can also make donations to worthwhile charities in someone else's name. They get the tax deduction and you've done some good in the world.

 Yep, judicious re-gifting is A-OK! Just keep them in separate social circles.

2. Re-gift as appropriate - Obviously, you shouldn't keep your re-gift in a small social circle, but if you've received something that you're not going to use, think about who can use it. A perfect gift means that the giver is thoughtful enough to match the gift with the recipient, and it doesn't need to be brand new.

3. Consider a live tree - I used to think it was such a shame to kill a tree just to decorate and keep around for a few weeks, so I bought a fake, pre-lit tree years ago that we still use. Now, however, I know I was wrong. Fake trees are made from petrochemicals that last forever - whether they remain in your home or in a landfill. Live trees are a renewable resource. They are sustainably farmed, improve air quality while they are growing, and can be mulched after the holidays to make a great soil amendment.

Green Holidays

4. Use LED lighting - If you haven't already done so, consider scaling back your Griswold-style lighting display and switch to LED lighting. It's 90% more efficient, saving energy and money.

5. Homemade gifts - I'm not a crafty person, but if you are, try making some gifts rather than buying. For food-loving friends, try a tasty  and elegant gift like a nicely packaged jar of seasoned roasted nuts or a boozy concoction like spiced pear infused vodka or anything from Putting Something By. You can also package up spice blends and create a pretty card to attach with a recipe.

6. Re-engineer your gift wrap - Avoid gift wrap with metallic finishes since they aren't biodegradable. Try an elegant but understated look with 100% post-consumer and fully-recyclable brown kraft or butcher paper tied with simple yarn or twine.

7. Skip holiday cards - I just dare you!  I used to send holiday cards, and most of my list was made up of people who I either: a) still liked but never talked to, b) didn't really like anymore or c) people I really liked and talked to all the time.  Here's how I broke the card cycle: I picked up the phone. For the people I sincerely wanted to reach out to, I simply called to catch up and they loved it! In some cases, it rekindled friendships and reopened lines of communication far better than a card ever could. I read somewhere that the amount of cards sold in the US each holiday season kills more than 300,000 trees! I'm not sure if this is true, but the point is that we don't need to kill so many trees for something of debatable social value that will be thrown out.

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