It's tempting to bend the rules and indulge in a little excess during the holiday season. We tend to leave the lights on, ditch that newspaper in the garbage can instead of recycling or use paper plates so we don't have so many dishes to wash.
But the holidays are also a high impact time for the environment. In addition to the fun, holidays involve huge amounts of waste that we expect the earth to bear. According to the Clean Air Council, discarded wrapping paper, packaging, decorations and food account for an additional five million tons of waste during the holidays in the United States. Four million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags, the Council says.
This year, let's show Mother Earth that we've grown into more responsible earth citizens. Here's some simple yet environmentally positive holiday tips for going and, hopefully, staying "evergreen."
Give Yourself a Recharge
More batteries are purchased during the holidays than any other time of year. This year, consider replacing alkaline batteries with rechargeables. You'll eliminate the hassle of figuring out where to recycle or dispose of dead batteries and always have a fresh supply on hand. In fact, a pack of rechargeable batteries would make a great gift. Newer models take as little as 20 minutes and some types are available in the same sizes as regular disposable types. Rechargeable batteries can be costly to buy, but are well worth the savings, in time, waste and energy!
Reusable is an Enduring Tradition
Consider setting your holiday table with real dishware and utensils Instead of plastic and paper. If you must use disposable items, reuse or compost what you can. Many cities now have compost services available with their regular recycling services. You can also be a green leader by organizing community garden and recycling events. Also consider buying a starter (still in the pot) evergreen for your holiday tree instead of a cut tree. When the holidays are over, you can plant it in your yard, garden or back in the forest.
Wrap and Repeat
Once upon a time, people wrapped presents in cloth or natural fibers. This year, avoid contributing to the curbside mountain range of discarded wrapping papers in your neighborhood. Many wrapping papers and tissue papers have dyes, wax or foil in them that makes them non recyclable. Fun and creative alternatives are newspaper, old maps, clothing, magazine pages, blueprints, calendar pages, or fabric to wrap your holiday gifts this year.
It's in the Bag
How many times have you been in the checkout line, only to remember that your forgot your cloth bags when the cashier is pulling open the plastic? This busy shopping time of year is great incentive to remember those cloth bags you have stashed in your car trunk or broom closet. Put them in your front car seat or at your door so you'll remember to bring them into the store. (And, when you are shopping for gifts, say "No thanks" to tissue paper, ribbons and stickers if retailers offer them with your purchase!)
If you're buying for a person who already has everything, or whose tastes you're unsure of, consider gifting experiences or gestures. Things like a donation to their favorite charity, a tree planted in their name or a unique experience like a play, lecture or recital will linger in their memory and make a lasting impression on the future.
These are just a few ideas for getting your green on for the holidays. Once you get into the habit of paring down and staying simple, you'll see inspiration from Mother Earth all around, all year 'round!