Bridges / Winter 2014
Celebrate the holiday with these 10 easy ways to cut down on waste, avoid toxic chemicals and save energy. Follow these tips, recommended by environmental experts, for a greener, more sustainable Christmas.
10. Bypass Battery-powered Toys and give naturally powered gifts instead or toys that can be recharged using a wall outlet. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 40 percent of annual battery sales occur during the holiday season. Improperly discarded batteries are an environmental hazard that release highly toxic metals into landfills. If battery-powered toys are unavoidable, give them with rechargeable batteries.
Go old-school with decorations – Bypass those holiday-scented candles and air fresheners, which are often made with petroleum products that can emit volatile organic compounds into your home. Replace them with freshly cut pine or fir branches and natural wreaths. Homemade potpourris and boiled cinnamon and oranges are also great alternatives. Also, skip the plastic beads and garlands on the tree and opt for strands of popcorn or cranberries instead. Making them is a great family activity. Ribbons are also a great alternative and can be reused for years!
Re-gifting – Instead of throwing away an unwanted gift, pass it along to someone who will actually enjoy it! Re-gifted items are perfect for the office Secret Santa exchanges, surprise guests, and holiday hosts and hostesses. Items should be new, unopened and rewrapped. Be mindful not to re-gift items to their original giver or someone in the same social circle! Visit com for more tips.
Reusable shopping bags- All that holiday shopping can lead to a glut of plastic and paper shopping bags, most of which end up in landfills. Instead take your own cloth totes to the mall. They are sturdier and can hold more items are often easier to carry and provide an extra level of secrecy for all Santa’s helpers out there!
Light up with LEDs – Redue the size of light displays and replace old bulbs and mini lights with high efficiency LED lights to save both energy and money. LED lights use 95 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and can last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. Put outdoor light displays on timers, set to shut off after everyone is asleep. Bonus: Look for solar-powered outdoor lights and those labeled RoHS-compliant, meaning they meet Restriction of Hazardous Substance standards for regulation of toxic materials including lead.
Give Experiences! Not all holiday gifts have to be consumable goods. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, museums or recreational memberships are great alternatives. Experiences create fun memories that will last for years to come. Services including massages, music and art lessons are also thoughtful, personal gifts.
Cut down on Christmas Cards and send electronic greetings instead. An estimated 2.6 billion Christmas cards — enough to fill a football field 10 stories high — are sent in the U.S. each year. If Americans each sent one less card, it would save an estimated 50,000 cubic yards of paper annually.
Shop and Buy Local – Shopping at local establishments and buying artisan goods will not only help boost the local economy but it reduces waste and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Skip the online shopping and head out to local craft fairs and dense shopping districts to find more gifts in a single trip. Bonus: Look for antiques and vintage items.
Choose a Real Christmas Tree – Live Christmas trees are friendlier to the environment than artificial ones, which are chocked full of petroleum-based products. Fake trees don’t last forever and they don’t breakdown in landfills. Live trees smell wonderful and can be recycled as mulch or used in lakes for fish habitat. Buy a sustainably farmed tree, preferably from a local tree farm to cut down on emissions during transportation, and look for trees treated with minimal pesticides. Potted trees are an even greener choice. Frasier and Noble Firs, Blue Spruces and Norfolk Pines do well in pots and can be planted outside.
Reusable Wrappings – Printed fabrics and ribbons, reusable gift bags, and sturdy decorative boxes are better choices to wrap gifts than disposable wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and plastic ribbons and bows. Each year Americans throw away an estimated 4 million tons of wrapping paper during the holiday season boosting consumer waste by 25 percent! Enough plastic ribbon to tie a bow around the Earth is also discarded each Christmas. While fabric wrapping is more expensive upfront it will save money and the planet in the long run. Also, don’t forget to save tissue paper for reuse. Smooth sheets out and fold them for storage. Cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls and toilet paper can be used to re-spool cloth ribbon for reuse too.