How to Have a Green Christmas
Living a greener life is something that I strive for.
Though I may not be where I want to be–I take baby steps whenever and wherever I can. With the holidays coming up, it’s ridiculously easy to become wasteful. It is one of the most excessive holidays of the year but, if you make some small changes, you can do your part and have a Green Christmas this year.
Did you know that according to Recycle Works, every year there is an estimated 2.65 million cards sold and if we all sent ONE less that we can reduce 50,000 cubic yards of paper? If you really want to go green and eliminate all waste you can send online holiday cards.
And that if we all reused 2ft of ribbon each year that would amount to 38, 000 miles of ribbon, enough ribbon to tie a bow around Planet Earth?
Oh, Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree–all 50 million purchased each year, 30 million ends up in a landfill. Knowing all this, how do you celebrate without feeling like you are losing out this holiday season?
Christmas can still be extravagant without the waste! After all the material things, it’s the time spent together that is remembered for always.
10 Tips on Having a Green Christmas:
1. Buy Less.
Now, this is a hard one for a lot of people but, over the years I’ve definitely have bought less and less. If you see the picture above, you can see that a few years ago, I was definitely buying things that my daughter didn’t need and yes that can be wasteful and on top of that, so many other things. Like teaching appreciation. But, that’s for another time to discuss. Also, in the sake of a little justification, at the time she was an only child and got spoiled rotten.
Doesn’t change anything, I know.
If you buy less, you definitely lessen your carbon footprint. All by less material, fewer emissions for travel and so much more. Buy what you need, not want. What I’ve done for the last two years was buy 1 or 2 bigger, useful things that I know my daughter wants and will use for a long time. Also, gifts that I know I can pass along once she outgrows it.
For my littlest, I only buy clothes and things she needs for everyday life, her sister has enough toys that she can share. So, I have dramatically reduced what I buy each year and I’m also teaching her to value the things she does get, which is something that is beyond rewarding.
This year, Hubby and I are going for more of an experience gift to each other and we are getting away for a couple days. Take someone out for dinner, tickets to a show–experiences don’t end up in the landfill.
2. Make Gifts.
Not only is this much more meaningful because of the time spent making it, but you can also reuse materials to make beautiful gifts. If you are going to buy gifts, choose ones that are made out of recycled materials. Choose battery-free gifts if possible and even though rechargeable batteries often end up in the landfill too, I’d opt for using rechargeable if you must.
Bake them a gift. No one can resist a delicious baked good every so often and especially during the holiday season, just be mindful of allergies. I often bake fresh cookies and put them on a festive plate that I know will get plenty of use!
3. Play Secret Santa.
This goes back to Tip #1 in the rule of buying less. Instead of buying 20 different gifts for your family, instead, get together and put all your names in a hat. Pick a name and buy an environmentally friendly (if it’s within your means) or a gift you know they will get years of use from your Secret Santa. Or make a nice thoughtful gift for one person. This is a great time to give your Secret Santa an experience rather than a physical gift. That way everyone gets a great gift and essentially you’ve all bought less and not to mention, spent less.
Which is great for everyone!
No, it’s not taboo. At least not to me, if you were given something and it’s something you will never use and have never opened–why not? Especially if you know that the person will use it and it’s a great gift. It’s the thought behind it after all. Often times, I let them know that I was given it previously but, thought of them and knew they’d LOVE it and get tons of use from it.
But, do re-gift responsibly!
5. Light It Up.
If you are using lights indoors as well as outdoors, make sure you opt for LED lights that use less energy. Make sure to turn your lights off when you go to sleep at night, no one is up to enjoy them anyways. In fact, they are less of a fire hazard, though always be mindful and don’t use the lights if you aren’t around. Mini-lights also use less energy and are a good option.
6. Oh, Tannenbaum!
When choosing your Christmas tree, opt for a natural tree, preferably a potted one. You can often keep them around for a few years when they are potted or choose to replant them in your yard at some point. If you are going to use an artificial tree, know that there were carbons emitted in making them but, you do get many years out of them. Once they lose their attraction, make sure you recycle them since they are made of twisted wire mostly, they are recyclable.
Remember, as aforementioned–30 million artificial trees end up in the landfills.
7. Wrap Thoughtfully.
If you receive gifts, save the bows and ribbons, gift bags or wrap to reuse. If you can reuse them, do so. Choose environmentally friendly wrapping paper that is often made of bamboo or hemp. Foiled paper is something to be avoided as it is harder to break down or recycle. A great way to wrap a unique gift is to use newspaper. The Saturday cartoons make for an excellent and nostalgic wrap. Once they are done they can just throw them in the recycling bin! Every year about 4 TONS of wrapping paper and gift bags end up in the trash, so when wrapping–do it thoughtfully for the receiver and the world they live in.
8. To Snail Mail or To Not?
If you must send Christmas cards, I know that I always do. Choose ones printed on recycled paper or choose an environmentally-conscious printing company that is FSC certified, which signifies that the materials used are sourced using the chain of custody for responsible forest management. My friends at Elephoto (pictured above), do just that and have amazing cards. But, if you want to forego it all together and reduce all waste, opt for electrical cards via the internet.
Though, in my opinion, I think snail mail is a thoughtful way to wish someone a Merry Christmas and definitely a great alternative to getting bills.
Don’t know what to do with all the Christmas cards you receive? Use crimped scissors and make gift tags for next year! You can also recycle all wrapping paper and cards that don’t contain all the glittery stuff or foil.
9. Recycle Those “OLD” Electronics.
Most people have the newest and most popular phones on their wish-lists as well as appliances. Make sure to purchase Energy Star appliances and to recycle your old phones. Did you know that about 10-15% of all phones are recycled? Most cities have electronics recycling programs and they will recycle all your electronics that you no longer use or have become obsolete to re-gift. I know that Best Buy actually has a place to drop off old phones to recycle.
10. Eat Less.
I know it’s the season to eat, drink and be merry! And by all means, do! But, it’s estimated that each person wastes about 100 pounds of edible food each year during the holidays. Don’t make more food than you actually need and if you don’t have a compost, it’s a great time to start! You can add all the scraps and come the new year you will have rich and nutritious compost to use in your garden.
Last but, not least!
Enjoy yourself and take advantage of the time you spend with loved ones. It’s easy to take so many things for granted but, one of the most rewarding gifts is time spent. It’s a wonderful time of the year to enjoy one another and to give meaningful gifts and you can do this all while still taking care of the planet we live in.
What do you do to lessen your waste during the holidays?
Share your tips, til then cheers m’deres!
Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela, and wife to Darasak. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.