The holidays are sometimes known for being a period of excess. Between holiday lights, entertaining visitors, baking and gift giving (and receiving), I know my family uses more electricity and water this time of year than normal, and our trash and recycling bins tend to fill up faster. In fact, Americans generate 25 percent more household waste than average from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, the environment may not be top of mind. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Check out our top 12 tips to help make your holiday season greener (and we don’t just mean with boughs of holly).
1. If you’re planning a get-together with friends or large groups, consider a white elephant gift exchange where everyone brings something they already have at home (no purchased gifts allowed). I predict you’ll have more fun, hear great personal stories and laugh a lot.
2. It’s tempting to use paper or plastic plates, cups and utensils you’re planning a holiday party, but stick with reusable materials and enlist a close friend or two to help you clean at the end of the party – using cloth towels instead of disposable paper towels, of course!
3. Consider dropping off extra food at a homeless shelter or food bank. Be sure to call ahead to find out what your local organization will accept.
4. Choose high-efficiency, long-lasting LED lights for holiday decorating.
5. Bring the outside in by decorating with natural materials from the outdoors like pinecones and discarded evergreen branches.
6. If you’re buying a live Christmas tree, look for one that’s grown locally (to minimize the emissions associated with long-distance transportation) and look for a post-holiday tree mulching program in your city.
7. Give children gifts that inspire curiosity about the natural world: a membership card to a zoo or children’s museum, an ant/butterfly farm, a science kit, a kite or a tree you can plant together.
8. For electronics or toys that require batteries, give rechargeable batteries and a recharger.
9. Instead of wrapping paper, make the packaging part of the gift with decorative boxes or baskets or use gift bags, which are easy to fold up and reuse. Don’t forget to save bows and ribbons, too!
10. Research shows that experiences make us happier than possessions, so consider skipping material gifts and give memories instead: performance/event tickets, a camping trip, cooking classes or a hot air balloon ride.
Looking for gift-giving ideas? View our sustainable holiday gift list.
11. Share a bit of your good fortune this holiday season by lending a helping hand to others. Participate in an Adopt-A-Family program or gather friends and family to volunteer at a local food bank, veteran’s organization (USO, VFW, VA hospital), hospital or senior center.
12. Donate extra blankets, shoes and warm clothes to a homeless shelter.