Green Ideas for This Holiday Season
The holiday season is the most anticipated time of year for many Americans. It’s a time for food, decorations, family, friends, and giving.
While the holiday season makes most of us merry and bright, we often forget the negative impact it has on our planet, due to the excess of materials used and other behaviors associated with the holidays.
Americans throw away 25% more trash during the time period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year. This is equivalent to 25 million tons of garbage or 1 million extra tons per week!
While we don’t seek to be the Grinch this holiday season, Planet Aid would like to offer suggestions for you to reduce waste during this holiday season, while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year!
Artificial vs. Real Christmas Trees
For years there has been an ongoing debate on whether an artificial tree or real Christmas tree is better. While artificial Christmas trees are more convenient and cost less over an extended time period, they are not the best for the environment.
Artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a petroleum-based, biodegradable plastic. Therefore, they cannot be recycled and will remain in a landfill long after you throw them out. Most artificial trees are produced in China, meaning they must be transported from the manufacturing sites. This transportation increases the emission of greenhouse gases.
Real trees are recyclable, help keep the air clean, and provide shelter for wildlife. They also have the ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a gas linked to climate change, while providing oxygen. For example, one acre of Christmas trees can produce the amount of daily oxygen needed for 18 people! Many people have the misconception that cutting down trees is bad for the environment. However, young trees can absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases at a faster rate. Once trees are cut down, they are replaced by new (young) trees that will absorb those gases quicker than the original older tree.
Both artificial and real Christmas trees can be a fire hazard. Always keep candles and other types of flames away from trees, and if you have a real tree, make sure that it gets plenty of water.
Avoid Wrapping Paper
While wrapping paper is pretty, it is also extremely wasteful. It is often used only once and then thrown away. This year, substitute wrapping paper with colorful pages out of a magazine, old road maps, or the Sunday sports section from the newspaper. Another idea is to avoid paper entirely by using reusable tins or boxes.
Fun Fact: If every American family wrapped 3 presents with re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!
Batteries contain chemicals such as nickel, cadmium, and lead which are extremely harmful to the environment and to humans. When disposed of in a landfill, they can cause soil damage and when burnt in municipal waste combustors, those chemicals are released into the air that we breathe. This Christmas, give gifts that don’t require batteries or if it’s an absolute must, make sure to purchase rechargeable batteries. Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries can be used up to 1,000 times and do not contain cadmium.
Recycle Old Electronics
Christmas time is a popular time for gifting new electronics such as televisions, cell phones, etc. So what do you do with your old electronics? Organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers will accept donations of smart phones and tablets to give them to our troops serving around the world. Best Buy offers a recycling program for all kind of electronics, including televisions, computers, appliances, ink, and more. You can also click here to find a recycling center near you. Recycling electronics removes clutter from your home AND helps the environment!
Decorate With LED Lights
The advantages of using LED lights are endless. You save energy and money, help the environment, and avoid fire hazards. According to the Energy Department, the estimated cost of electricity to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours per day for 40 days is $10 with traditional lights and only 27 cents a day with LED lights! LED lights are much cooler than the traditional incandescent lights, reducing the risk of burnt fingers or even a fire in your home. Consider these facts when deciding how you will be decorating your home this holiday season.
Send Online Greeting Cards
Send online greeting cards to your friends and family instead of sending paper greeting cards by mail. You’ll save tons of paper, money, and they will be delivered quicker!
Fun Fact: The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the United States could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we all sent one less card, we could save 50,000 cubic yards of paper!
Clothing is another popular gift idea around this time of year. When buying clothes for others, try to stick with sustainable brands. Brands such as Patagonia, H&M, Levi, and Zara all have sustainable collections or are known for their sustainable practices. As always, if you find yourself needing to get rid of old clothes to make room for new ones, be sure to drop them off at a Planet Aid donation bin. To find a bin near you, visit http://www.planetaid.org/find-a-bin.See All Blog Posts