You don't have to spend a lot to give meaningful gifts your family and friends will enjoy and appreciate. Click here for Everyday Green's list of green gift ideas. Once you've selected your green gifts, opt for wrapping paper made from recycled paper. Even better, wrap gifts in materials you already have on hand like fabric, the comics, or grocery bag paper you've decorated yourself.
Travel is a major part of the holidays for many people. Remember, buses and trains have less of an impact on your wallet and the environment than air travel. And if you're going to be away, remember to turn down the thermostat and turn off the lights to save energy while you’re gone.
With the holiday company coming you'll want to get your home looking its best. If you haven't done so already, swap those expensive, chemical-laden cleaning products for inexpensive, non-toxic solutions you can make right at home. With a few simple products, like vinegar, baking soda and peroxide, you can get your house just as clean as with traditional cleaning products. Click here for details.
When decorating utilize materials you already have on hand or purchase items you can use again. Bringing the outside in (think pine cones, plant or flower clippings, and living plants) is a great way to decorate for little or no money. Plus, holiday craft making is a wonderful activity the whole family can enjoy together.
If you must decorate with lights, switch to energy-efficient LED lights. They are brighter and use 90% less energy than conventional holiday lights, saving you up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season.
If you're decorating with candles, avoid traditional paraffin candles. Despite how nice they may look or smell, these candles and the smoke and soot they produce contain harmful toxins. The American Lung Association and the EPA have warned consumers that using paraffin candles decreases indoor air quality. The fumes released by paraffin candles are comparable to those produced by burning diesel. For a healthier, greener alternative look for candles made from soy or beeswax with non-lead wicks that are scented with essential oil.
The debate over real versus artificial Christmas trees replays every year. Real Christmas trees can be costly, are typically treated with pesticides, and add to an already large amount of post-holiday trash. Artificial trees are non-biodegradable and contain lead and other additives linked to liver, kidney, neurological and reproductive system damage in lab animals. And according to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition', artificial trees “may shed lead-laced dust, which may cover branches or shower gifts and the floor below the tree”, posing a health risk to children.
Environmentally and health-wise, real trees hold the advantage over artificial. Look for a locally grown, organic tree. Even better, pick up a potted tree this Christmas. A small (no bigger than 4 feet) tree in a planter that is kept in a cool indoor space can survive indoors until the ground thaws in the spring and it can be planted. Larger potted tress and those that come with a root ball last no more than a few days before they must be planted outdoors. If you don’t have the land for replanting, you can always donate the tree to the local parks department or to someone who does have the space.
Thanks to the 4,000-plus recycling programs available in the U.S., over 90% of all Christmas trees get recycled. Do the green thing and visit earth911.org to find the tree-recycling program near you.
When preparing your holiday meals opt for organic and local. Doing so helps ensure that you're getting the freshest, most nutritious food that hasn’t been chemically modified to keep its appearance after traveling half way around the world. Plus, you'll be supporting your local economy. You can find farmers’ markets, farms, and community-supported agriculture programs in your area at http://www.localharvest.org. For help planning your meal around what’s in season check out the seasonal produce guide available at sustainabletable.org/.
Buying food in bulk will reduce packaging waste and save you money, but you don't want to overbuy and waste food. You can cut down on waste by planning ahead and calculating how much food you will actually need. This list of approximate food and drink portions should help:
Turkey - 1 pound per person
Stuffing - ¼ pound per person
Casserole side dish - ¼ pound per person
Vegetable side dish - ¼ pound per person
Sauce or Chutney - 3 tablespoons per person
Pie (9-inch) - 1/8 slice per person
Keeping track of how much was consumed can help you better plan for future holiday meals.
For drinks, consider serving biodynamic wine. There's a growing number of sustainable wines available and many are quite reasonably priced. Click here to learn more.
Finally, remember to take time to enjoy. Forget all the “stuff” and celebrate all have to be grateful for.
Have a happy, healthy, and green holiday season!