The holiday season is meant for spending time with loved ones and (more importantly) pampering them. There is a flurry of excitement in the air as we travel to see our friends and family, cook delicious holiday meals, and purchase gifts for those who mean the most to us. We all hustle to brighten up our homes with decorative lights, wrap presents, grocery shop, and heat our homes for cozy gatherings, often without thinking twice about how much energy we are using.
The average American family produces 25% more trash during the holiday season, and its carbon footprint can quickly balloon thanks to traveling long distances, cooking large meals, and purchasing and wrapping gifts for one another. With the holidays comes the desire to live in excess, treating ourselves for a year of hard work. However, making small amendments to your holiday routine can decrease your carbon footprint significantly. Here are some tips to help you go greener this season:
- If you’re hosting the holiday gathering, turn down your thermostat a few degrees. The more people you invite over, the warmer your home will become naturally. You know what they say – the more the merrier!
- Make sure your television, DVD player, chargers, and other electronic appliance are unplugged to conserve energy while you’re traveling.
- Pack lighter while flying to reduce the weight of the plane, and in turn reduce the amount of fuel used and resultant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- If family is close by, consider using public transportation for your visit.
- For emissions that can’t be avoided, consider carbon offsets from Green Mountain to help balance out your remaining carbon footprint.
- Instead of purchasing recipe books, refer to recipes online or purchase iBooks to reduce paper and CO2 emissions from the manufacturing and shipping.
- Be sure to compost all of your leftover food, and store what’s still salvageable in the fridge for later.
- Cook with local ingredients and organic foods. Organic is healthier and local means less travel and CO2 emissions are created to get to your plate!
- When you’re drying the dishes, use reusable holiday towels instead of disposable paper towels.
- Bake several dishes at once to save time AND energy!
- Remember to bring your reusable bags while grocery shopping.
- If you’re in the market for a new appliance to prepare your holiday meals, look for ENERGY STAR® certified models to save 10% to 50% in energy use compared to conventional appliances.
Gifting & Decorating
- Consider purchasing Fair Trade items gifts for family this year. Fair Trade producers strive toward organic certification and use only sustainable practices.
- Use recycled wrapping paper, and save it once you’ve unwrapped your gifts – you can use it again next year.
- Purchase cards that are printed on recycled paper materials or skip the paper all together and send e-cards.
- Create your own gifts using art supplies. Check out websites like Pinterest and Etsy to get good ideas for gifts you can make yourself. Handmade gifts have a more sentimental feel and can save you money, too!
- Use artificial wreaths and trees that can be used again year after year. Or if you prefer a real tree, look for one that is pesticide-free and from a local tree farm that replants. You may also consider a living tree that can be decorated for the holidays and then planted outside after the festivities are over to provide shade, storm water management, carbon sequestration, and all the other great environmental benefits that trees provide year-round!
- Light candles at the dinner table instead of using overhead lights. Soy candles are more festive, emissions-free, and conserve electricity.
- Hang LED holiday lights in your home since they use less energy than traditional bulbs. Also consider installing a timer on your lights so that they don’t stay on all night, wasting energy.
When all is said and done, incorporating just one or two of these eco-friendly tips into your holiday celebrations will significantly decrease your carbon footprint. You could even donate the money you save on your electricity bill to environmental charities, because the season is about giving back, after all!