Tips for a Greener Holiday Season
Green Tips | November 26, 2017
With travel, gift giving, and many big meals, the winter holidays are one of the times of the year with the highest rates of personal consumption. Because of this heightened consumption rate, the holidays are the time when being conscious of sustainable practices will have the greatest total impact. Here are some holiday practices you can take to generate an impact, and others that can help foster a sense of love and consciousness toward the environment:
Holiday Lights: If you’re shopping for holiday lights, choose LED lights. LED lights are a no-brainer. They use 90% less energy than traditional lights, have the same (or greater) brightness, and last much longer than traditional lights.
Christmas Trees: The Nature Conservancy has an informative post on Christmas trees and they recommend that readers buy a real tree, ideally one that was grown locally and organically. If you do buy an artificial Christmas tree, invest in a durable one that will last a lifetime. It takes at least ten and up to twenty years for an artificial tree to compete with the carbon benefits of the real thing. Buy a durable Christmas tree to save both money and emissions compared to a series of cheaper artificial trees.
Gift-wrapping: While pretty, wrapping paper is wasteful. Find creative ways to re-use paper you have anyway, like magazines or olds maps, or re-use gift bags. Recycled brown wrapping paper is also an option. The Guardian has a guide for green gift-wrapping and holiday cards here.
Donate: If you have unwanted gifts, or have old items that can be replaced with new gifts, donate those to someone who can use them. Think Goodwill, Salvation Army, or church and other community drives.
Shopping trips: It’s tempting to go out and do a little shopping at a time each weekend, but those trips add up. Try as much as possible to group shopping trips together, to minimize time spent driving, and thus, your carbon footprint. If you’re shopping online, try not to order each item individually to cut down on shipping emissions. If you know you’ll be purchasing three gifts from one online store, order them all at the same time. This will increase the likelihood that they’ll arrive in the same shipment, depending on factors including warehousing and shipping costs.
Non-material gifts: Consider giving your loved ones experiences that will foster a sense of curiosity and admiration for the natural world. This does not have to be cheesy: think of enrollment at camps, sports lessons, retreats, etc. Material objects can be gateways to the natural world too. A camera or a pair of binoculars can give a child a reason to go outside and explore.
Travel: Some air travel is unavoidable, but energy use per mile traveled is the highest when flying. Short plane trips result in much higher greenhouse gas emissions than driving, say between New York and Pittsburgh. Plus, though the flight may be shorter than the drive, you will likely spend just as much time at the airports as you would in a car or on a train.
Sustainable Meal Practices: When preparing big holiday meals, check out our Thanksgiving dinner prep guide. Although it may be tempting to use disposable plates and cutlery, use the opportunity to break out your fine china and save on emissions. The extra bit of cleanup is worth it! We also recommend using smaller plates since they tend to cut down on wasted food. Speaking of, be sure to recycle your food scraps and find creative ways to consume all of your leftovers.< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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