People sometimes tend to indulge over the holiday season, increasing their waistlines and decreasing the amount in their bank accounts. But when it comes to being environmentally safe, that is one area where you should NOT indulge. According to the Green America® organization, waste disposal in the United States increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, causing an extra five billion pounds of waste to enter the landfills.
While holidays are a special time to give thanks and celebrate with the ones you love, they don’t have to have a negative impact on our atmosphere. There are numerous ways covering a variety of topics to go green throughout the season.
- Turn off holiday lights during the day. This will save energy and allow your lights to last longer. There’s no sense in wasting energy when no one is around to appreciate the lights, or when they aren’t well-displayed in the daylight.
- Use LED lighting. “LEDs are exceptionally energy efficient when producing individual colors, many using up to 90 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light,” stated the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
- Close up your fireplace when not in use. While not technically a decoration, ornamented mantels are a staple this time of year, and a nice warm fire sure does make you feel cozy on a cold winter’s night. Just be sure that when you are not using your fireplace, close the flue and block the hearth to prevent heat loss.
- Buy items with minimal packaging or packaging made with recycled materials. As for the product itself, check labels to see if it is recyclable. Better yet, give personal gifts like donating your time and talent to friends and family, or make donations to your loved ones’ favorite causes in their names.
- Avoid toys made with PVC plastic, as it is toxic. “Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen,” stated Green America®. ”Also, additives, such as lead and cadmium, are sometimes added to PVC to keep it from breaking down; these additives can be particularly dangerous in children’s toys. PVC is also the least recycled plastic.”
- Bring your own bags on shopping trips so stores won’t have to give you new ones with your purchases. Furthermore, keep gift boxes for next year and don’t accept new ones when the store employees offer them.
- Don’t buy wrapping paper. Save and reuse old paper, when possible, or use newspaper, fabric, magazines or calendars. Reusable gift bags are also a solid choice.
- Consider products’ durability before purchasing as a gift. Cheaper usually equals lower quality, so keep that in mind when debating over items. Also, when thinking about purchasing electronics as gifts, just recall that the manufacturing and disposal of these items create substantial human health and environmental threats. Green America® noted that the Recycled Video Games Network is an invaluable resource if looking to dispose of old equipment.
- Compost scraps and store leftovers in reusable containers.
- Buy food ingredients with the least amount of packaging, and go for organic when possible.
- When eating your holiday meal, put your food on non-disposable tableware. Use cloth napkins and set the table with reusable dishes, glasses and silverware. It may be easier to go paper and plastic, but it is definitely not the most efficient.
- Buy holiday cards made from recycled paper and printed on white stock with non-toxic inks and without metallic or plastic coatings, as they are not very efficiently made. There are also cards out there that are completely tree-free, made from kenaf and hemp.
- Send holiday postcards instead. Eliminate the need for a paper envelope with this method, or you can skip the post office altogether and send e-cards over the Internet.
- Don’t know what to do with the cards you receive in the mail from friends and family? Cut it apart, recycle the back of it and use the front, designed side as a gift tag going forward.
The U.S. EPA recommends the following tips regarding fir trees over the holidays:
- Buy a living tree you can later plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays.
- Buy a tree grown locally to save energy associated with transportation.
- Buy a smaller tree. There's less to dispose of when you take it down, and shorter growing time translates into less land required.
Other tips include using mass transportation when traveling to see family, and also do so when out doing your shopping, or walk, bike or carpool there instead. Cutting down on the millions of miles Americans travel over the holidays will eliminate a ton of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, remember the basics — recycle, reduce, reuse. Recycle cans, paper, glass, etc., as well as cardboard packaging and Styrofoam packing peanuts. Doing any of the above activities can leave a positive impact on our environment and your future.
This article is presented by Colonial Buick GMC in Watertown, Massachusetts.