10 Ways to ‘Green’ Your Holiday

Shared by the Trocaire TroGreen Club, from life.gaiam.com.

The holiday season offers a multitude of opportunities to go green, from decorations to gifts. It’s easier than you think if you do it in small steps, and those little things matter! These 10 tips from “The Green Year” by Jodi Helmer are all great ways to make this a green holiday. And some are downright habit-forming, so you’ll get a little head-start on being more eco-friendly in the new year.

1. Take an inventory of your holiday décor
Do you need a festive serving bowl or a new holiday stocking for your mantle? Make a list of the things you need and look for them at secondhand stores. At this time of year, the aisles of thrift shops are filled with gently used holiday decorations. You’ll find all of the things you need to trim your tree at a fraction of the price and help keep boxes of ornaments from going to the landfill.

2. Go online to check the proofs of your holiday card photos
If sending holiday cards with a family photo is a tradition, look at the photos electronically before ordering. You’ll reduce the use of chemical inks and heavy duty photo paper if you view the proofs online. Once you’ve picked the photo for your holiday cards, be sure to order only as many cards as you plan to send to eliminate waste.

3. Get LED holiday lights
Most retailers stock energy-efficient LED holiday lights, made with light-emitting diodes. LED lights are 90 percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights and last longer—up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for incandescent bulbs. You can also increase your energy savings with solar-powered holiday lights. Some retailers even sell strands of decorative icicles and holiday wreaths with solar panels.

4. Make your holiday shopping list green
You can ‘green’ your holiday shopping by choosing eco-friendly gifts, shopping at locally owned stores or buying from retailers who use a portion of their profits to support environmental causes.

5. Put your holiday lights on timers
Leaving your holiday lights turned on 24 hours a day will quadruple the energy costs—and create four times the pollution as leaving them on for six hours. Set your timer to turn the lights on at dusk and leave them on until you go to bed. You’ll be able to enjoy the lights all evening without burning energy overnight.

6. Decorate with natural materials
You can make beautiful holiday decorations with items found in nature: A bowl of evergreen boughs and fresh fruit, a basket filled with fallen branches, winter berries and pinecones, and seasonal plants like poinsettias make inexpensive holiday décor. Once the holidays are over, your decorations can be added to the compost pile.

7. Start gathering eco-friendly packing materials
Mail your holiday gifts in boxes padded with recycled newspaper or the leftover paper in your shredder. You can also use real peanuts and include a note asking the recipient to feed them to the squirrels once the box is unpacked. These green materials will protect your packages just as well as bubble wrap or Styrofoam but have none of the negative impacts on the environment. Styrofoam accounts for up to 25 percent of the waste in our landfills. And when it’s burned, Styrofoam releases over 90 different toxins including dioxin, a known carcinogen.

8. Buy a cut Christmas tree
Nearly all cut Christmas trees were grown on tree farms, which means their stock is replenished yearly and forests aren’t depleted. Cut Christmas trees are a much greener choice than artificial trees, which are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles before they reach your living room. Unlike artificial trees, which eventually end up in the landfill, cut trees can be recycled after the holidays.

9. Wrap presents in gift bags
Once you tear the wrapping paper off of a holiday gift, it ends up in the recycling bin — but gift bags can be used over and over again. Look for gift bags made with recycled materials or purchase plain paper bags and decorate them yourself with recycled holiday cards. If every family in the U.S. reused two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon – enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.

10. Shop for holiday gifts that don’t require batteries
Nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holidays. Eventually, worn out batteries end up in the landfill where they leach toxic metals into the soil and groundwater.  You can help keep batteries from going to the landfill by choosing holiday gifts that don’t require batteries. If you do buy gifts that require batteries, give rechargeable batteries.