It may be the most wonderful time of year, but it’s also the most wasteful. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of year. However, you can take a number of steps to make sure that you’re making this season sustainable—after all, you don’t need to be the Grinch to be green!
The Great Tree Debate
The University of Illinois Extension reports that approximately 350 million Christmas trees are growing on more than 150,000 acres across the country. In the years before they are cut down, Christmas trees serve as valuable habitats for wildlife. They’re also more likely to be local, which reduces their carbon footprint.
If you opt for a real tree, don’t forget to recycle it after Christmas. Used Christmas trees can be repurposed into mulch, used to prevent beachfront erosion or even to generate electricity. Chicagoans can drop off their trees in January at predetermined locations, sponsored by the City of Chicago.
Fake trees have the benefit of multiple uses, but because of the materials, manufacturing and transportation they require, they need to be reused for at least seven years before being considered sustainable.
If you want to stay extra green, consider decorating a favorite houseplant or even better, a potted tree that you can plant in the spring. You can also decorate using greenery from your own yard—branches, berries, leaves—to make centerpieces, wreaths and garlands to brighten up your home.
If you’re using lights, choose LED ones that require much less electricity—up to 70 percent less than traditional bulbs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. They’re also brighter, safer and last longer! Just don’t forget to recycle your old lights.
Reuse and Rejoice
Wrap presents using recycled paper or paper bags. Make DIY ornaments from materials around your house. Use real glasses and plateware at a dinner party where you serve seasonal, local goods. Pack baked goods in reusable festive tins. There are dozens of ways to cut back on paper and plastic—get creative!
What are your favorite eco-friendly ways to prepare for the holidays? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!