Enjoy an Eco-Friendly Holiday With Family and Friends

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Easy ways to enjoy the holidays while minimizing harm to the environment:

  1. Use natural decorations. Rather than fill the inside and outside of your home with plastic items that may be thrown out by the end of the year, use decorations made of wood and other natural substances. Add fruit, nuts, and pine cones to your holiday centerpiece, fireplace mantle, outdoor planters or urns for rich color and an organic touch. Use a needle and thread to string dried citrus, apples, pine cones and cinnamon sticks into a colorful garland for your Christmas tree.
  2. Simplify your decorations.
  3. Only purchase items that you know will be put to good use and not end up in the trash. Not only will this be more eco-friendly, but recipients of your gifts will appreciate the fact that you gave them things that they will treasure.
  4. Purchase eco-friendly gifts made from sustainable materials, manufactured in environmentally friendly ways, easily recycled and having low carbon footprints when used.
  5. Choose gifts and products that come with minimal packaging.
  6. Shop for locally manufactured items that do not have to be shipped across the country, to minimize vehicular pollution.
  7. Use wrapping paper alternatives. Wrapping paper often gets ripped off and thrown out, causing excess waste. Instead of wrapping paper, place gifts in bags that can be reused several times. Not only will the recipient have the gift, but they will have an easy, eco-friendly way of wrapping gifts the following year.
  8. Avoid mass-produced, glossy wrapping paper. It’s not recyclable and ends up in landfills.
  9. Recycle wrapping paper.
  10. Follow a one gift rule for all family members, to reduce excess waste. Some family members may go all out and buy many gifts for children. This rule helps to ensure that gifts are chosen more thoughtfully.
  11. For fun and to save money, have your children make wreaths, garlands, ornaments and gifts for friends and family, rather than buy them. Celebrate with a handmade gift exchange, in which all participants have to either make gifts themselves or purchase them from someone who did.
  12. Choose the right tree. Fake trees that don’t last will not help the environment. A real tree can be mulched after the holidays, which will ultimately use less energy than what was used to create a fake tree. The best option is a potted tree, which can be used for more than one year and then planted after being used in your home.
  13. Use LED lights. LED lighting is far more efficient than older bulbs. If you haven’t changed the lights you decorate with for a long time, upgrade to LED lighting to save energy, as well as, money on your electric bill.
  14. Replace bulbs that have burned out. When a string of lights no longer works, it’s usually a single bulb that is the problem. Replacing the burned out bulb will keep you from tossing the whole thing. The best way to do this is with bulb tester.
  15. Use timers for your lights. Setting a timer so that your lights turn on at dusk and off at dawn or earlier is more efficient than having lights on 24/7.
  16. Avoid disposable dishes and silverware. When many guests visit, a host finds it easier to use paper plates and plastic ware. Unfortunately, this leads to much waste. Use real dishes instead. It will make clean up more difficult, but it will be far more eco-friendly.
  17. Compost or feed leftovers to animals, instead of throwing them out, to reduce waste. 
  18. Clean using all natural cleaners and avoid harmful chemicals.
  19. Celebrate the holidays together under one roof, to save time, money and materials.
  20. Do all your shopping in one trip, to save time, gas and your carbon footprint.
  21. Shop online for convenience and to reduce fuel consumption.
  22. Carpool to holiday events to reduce your commuting carbon footprint. Traveling together is more social, affordable, and environmentally-friendly than traveling alone.
  23. Save energy by turning down the thermostat at night.
  24. Buy locally grown, organic food and do not purchase meat from industrial farms.
  25. Buy holiday cards made from recycled paper.
  26. Send inexpensive, electronic holiday cards, instead of mailing cards.
  27. Send digital gift cards over the internet, allowing the recipient to place orders at online stores. A great way to reduce waste and fuel consumption!
  28. Make purchases online, instead of subscribing to gift catalogs. 
  29. Cook food from scratch (gravy, pie crust, pie, cranberry sauce, etc.). It’s more environmentally-friendly than buying food already prepared at a store.
  30. Purchase organic wines and local microbrews to benefit the environment and local economy.
  31. Use natural candles. Holiday candles are often made with petroleum-based wax and artificial fragrance and release unhealthy soot. Use candles made with natural beeswax wax, instead.
  32. Use organic spices when cooking holiday meals. Purchasing organic spices helps the environment, just like purchasing organic fruits, vegetables, and locally raised, free range meats.
  33. Minimize waste and garbage. Not all plastic can be recycled and most lasts indefinitely in landfills. Use everyday, borrowed, rental or biodegradable plates, cloth instead of paper napkins, reusable cups and flatware.
  34. Indoor/outdoor plants and seeds make wonderful, long lasting gifts for loved ones.
  35. Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles to help reduce the millions of plastic bottles thrown away every year in our waterways and ocean.
  36. Donate to a reputable environmental group: If you don’t have time or the will to change your lifestyle, donate to an environmental group to make a difference.
  37. Ask close friends and family members to join you for an eco-friendly holiday.

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