The holidays are a time of joy and giving thanks. This year, you can also make it a
time of renewal for the planet. Without going to too much trouble, you can implement
several green aspects into your holiday preparations and celebrations.
Technology to Save Energy: You are going to be on the computer anyway, so consider
sending holiday greetings to family and friends via e-mail. For lots of holiday fun, check out www.elfyourself.com to virtually turn yourself and family members into elves for the holidays.
Reuse It: If you prefer to send handwritten notes, make your own cards with paper you already have. Or look for holiday cards printed on recycled paper. Eliminate envelope waste by sending postcards or folding and sealing notes so you can address them on the outside. Every bit of paper you save really adds up and it saves you money on postage!
Recycled Party: When hosting holiday parties, use reusable glass or plastic ware and recycled paper napkins. Marcal Small Steps is a line made from 100 percent recycled paper rather than from trees, making your party so eco-chic and festive. At www.biodegradablestore.com, you can find various biodegradable paper plates and cutlery to keep your party green through and through.
Bag It: Lately everyone seems to be remembering their reusable grocery bags at the grocery store, but we also need to keep in mind that when shopping for gifts and holiday decorations, we should carry our own canvas bag or backpack, or reuse shopping bags. One smart choice is ChicoBag’s new rePETe bag (www.chicobag.com), made from seven plastic bottles that would ordinarily end up in landfills—instead, they’re put to good use in this reusable tote that can carry up to 25 pounds of gifts, food and goodies.
Nonmaterial: Any mother will tell you that she’d prefer receiving gifts of your time or services. Consider a free breakfast in bed or perhaps a lunch date. Save valuable resources and share some quality time with a loved one. Consider gift certificates—for restaurants, movies, babysitting, etc.—or give consumable items such as baked goods.
Give What Is Needed: Resist the urge to spend money on fad gifts that may not even get used; instead, give gifts that are on someone’s list and are possibly made locally or in the USA. This conservative approach results in happy gift recipients and a happy planet (less waste).
Regifting Is Not a Crime: Pass along hand-me-downs and heirlooms as special gifts for family members. These are also called "story gifts" because they carry stories with them and often invoke treasured memories. Share a story and some history with a loved one!
It’s a Wrap: According to the Medical University of South Carolina, waste output increases 25 percent during the holiday season. When wrapping gifts, consider reusing packaging from previous years or maybe even use the funny pages from the newspaper or recycled wrapping paper. Get creative and use unique containers to hold gifts, such as cloth sacks or boxes from other products. Save countless trees and give your creativity muscle a boost!
Ever-Green: Everyone loves the smell of fresh-cut holiday trees; however, consider alternatives to a cut tree, such as a live tree, a decorated houseplant or an artificial tree. To maintain that reminiscent evergreen odor, consider tree-scented air fresheners or candles. Check out Earth-Kind’s website for some eco-friendly options. Remember to recycle your Christmas tree when you can no longer use it. Many neighborhoods have tree recycling programs.
Decorate with Nature: Use natural items from around the house to decorate your tree, such as popcorn, berries and outdoor greens. Mother Nature will be so proud!
Buy Energy-Saving LED Holiday Lights: Now you can decorate your house with LED lights that use 90 percent less energy than conventional holiday lights and can save your family up to $50 on energy bills during the holiday season. LED lights are available at many major retailers, including Target, Costco and Ace Hardware.
Buy Organic or Locally Grown Produce: Cook at least some vegetarian meals—make the most out of food resources and fuel. Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does it taste better, but you'll be doing your part for the planet, too. Consider preparing food that does not have to be refrigerated to lower the amount of power wasted by continually opening and closing the fridge. Give away untouched leftovers and unwanted gifts. Others less fortunate than you could be very appreciative of these regifted presents.
Fair-Trade Chocolate: Fill your stockings with fair-trade chocolate and you can eat your way to a better planet. Consider Divine Chocolate, whose mission is to improve the livelihood of farmers.
Cool House: Take a pledge this New Year’s to reduce your home energy use by buying energy-efficient light bulbs. Installing only six compact fluorescent light bulbs will save the average American family $60 per year. There are other ways to stay cool, too. For example, if there's a fire in your fireplace this Christmas, turn down that thermostat! Lowering the temperature even 5 degrees can take 10 percent off your energy bill.
Beth Aldrich is a certified nutrition and healthy lifestyle counselor, spokesperson, and author of the book Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food and Still Look Fabulous! (Penguin Books, NAL, Jan. 3, 2012). You can read her blog at www.realmomslovetoeat.com, and find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/realmomsluv2eat.