The holiday season may be the jolliest of times for family and friends, but Mama Earth might have a thing or two to say about that! The United States produces an additional six-million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Yearâ€™s Day. Feeling a little less jolly and a bit more gluttonous now? Itâ€™s not too late to help make the holidays a little greener, have a spectacular holiday season and keep a little green in your wallet for 2010.
#1 Outdoor Lighting â€“ I tried to find the best solution for this biggest holiday waste of energy. To LED or not LED? Use timers and limit the number of days in use? Solar powered or battery operated? Any way you look at it, holiday lights are a pure luxury of waste. I did find some solar-powered lighting but that quickly fell from consideration because of the energy required to ship it here from China. This year, our home is lightless, saving us lots of green without wasting a single watt of extra energy. Your home can still be one of the most festive in your ‘hood. Use old wrapping paper to cover your front door to look like a gift package. When youâ€™re at home in the evenings, place small, green, soy-made votive candles on your windowsills so your neighbors know youâ€™re just as happy letting your little lights shine bright green.
#2 The Tree â€“ The holiday trees that claim â€œZero-Wasteâ€ are a joke. Any live tree that is cut, used and discarded (even if recycled) generates waste that has a negative impact. Most holiday trees are grown, cut and transported miles away from here. Zero-Waste may be impossible but there are some simple ways to be green, consume locally and create a sustainable holiday tree. Here in Lansing, Van Attaâ€™s Greenhouse transforms itself into a magical holiday center where you can purchase a live potted tree. After the holiday season, you can continue to sustain the tree indoors until it can be planted permanently outdoors.
#3 Feasting – From office parties and company dinners to baking and cooking the main holiday feast, food is a significant source of holiday waste. If youâ€™re hosting a holiday meal outside your home, consider locations that are locally owned and operated. Shop locally for your baking and cooking needs and try purchasing in bulk to reduce cost and packaging waste. The ingredients for the typical American holiday meal travel an average of 1,200 miles, adding to your carbon footprint. Bake, cook and dine locally and you and Mama Earth can be very merry!
#4 Gifting â€“ There are many ways to save some green, be green and still give meaningful gifts. Once believed to be a holiday faux pas, re-gifting is the new way to recycle unused items. Our family has a small moose head made â€œback-in-the-dayâ€ in someoneâ€™s woodshop class. This moose gets re-gifted to someone else in the family every year and is THE most wanted item at our annual Christmas Eve party. The cost is zero, the waste is zero and the moose re-gifting brings more laughter and joy than any other gift.
#5 Wrapping & Packaging – I used to purchase wrapping paper and matching bows, ribbons, and gift tags in a different color scheme for each group of our family and friends ever year. Ridiculous, right? I know and the statistics agree – nearly half of all paper consumed in the United States is used for wrapping and decorating. Using products made from recycled material, reusing gift bags and saving the wrapping from gifts you receive are all good ideas and help reduce the amount of paper and packaging that ends up in landfills. The best idea I received was via a late-night chat with my Mom. For gifting friends and family outside your area, use your local newspaper as wrapping paper. Printed newspapers consume nearly 95 million trees annually, so reusing them as gift wrap and then recycling can help reduce the overall impact. Your gift recipients will get a kick out of reading the latest happenings in your community, and youâ€™ll save a few bucks.
Enjoy the holiday season responsibly and your greatest gift will be the knowledge you gain by contributing to a less wasteful, greener, more sustainable future here on planet earth. May the spirit of the holidays bring peace and joy to you and yours.