WASHINGTON, December 19, 2013—The holidays are a time for family and celebration. The holidays also negatively impact the environment. From the millions of live Christmas trees that must be disposed of, to the tons of wrapping paper and sharp increase in energy usage to keep the colored lights twinkling, the holidays cause a lot of damage. However, small changes can make a huge difference.
1. Switch to LED lights. LED lights use only 10 percent of the power used by traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer. If you haven’t made the switch to LED holiday lights, now is the perfect time. While LED lights may be more expensive than incandescent lights, they will save money in energy costs and will not need to be replaced as often.
2. Recycle, recycle, recyle. There are tons of recycling opportunities during the holidays. Recycle wrapping paper and bows. According to Vivint, if every family reused two feet of holiday ribbon, it would save 38,000 miles of ribbon: enough to tie a bow around the planet. When giving gifts that require batteries, give rechargeable batteries. Recycle greeting cards, use them as ornaments, or send email holiday cards. If giving new video games and electronics, encourage the recipient to recycle old ones at places like Best Buy, Recycle Video Games and EPA’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page.
3. Green your tree. Thirty–three million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every holiday season. If you buy a live tree, help reduce the amount of trees that end up in landfills by finding out if your city has recycling options like a program that collects and uses the trees for mulch. You can also purchase a potted tree, plant it after the holiday, and cut out the waste completely.
4. Invest in energy efficient and solar. If giving appliances this holiday, buy an energy efficient model. Energy efficient products use between 10 and 50 percent less energy than traditional appliances. If thinking about a gift for yourself, going solar will pay off for years by lowering your electricity bills. Power purchase agreements and leasing make it easy and low cost to start without having to make a large investment.
5. Give an experience. Symphony, concert, theater, sporting event or museum, tickets to an event is a great no-waste present. You can also give the gift of music, sports or art lessons. Memberships to a gym, a day at the spa, massage, etc. are also great gifts that a loved one will remember always. You can also offer to walk the dogs for a month, make dinner or help with chores around the house.
6. Make your holiday dinner with seasonal, local foods. Locally grown and prepared foods reduce transportation and greenhouse emissions. Buying local produce, meat and dairy also supports local farmers. Look up recipes that use seasonal ingredients and let your guests know that all or most of your meal comes from near your home.
7. Consider lifecycle and durability when giving electronics. Manufacturing and disposal of electronics creates considerable environmental hazards. Electronics contain chemicals like mercury, lead and cadmium that can leak into the soil, water and air when not disposed of properly. Before giving an electronic item, consider how long the recipient is likely to keep it and what the recycling options are.
8. Buy local gifts. Transportation of goods across the country and the world contributes to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Buying locally made gifts and toys reduces transportation costs and supports your local economy.
9. Give potted plants instead of a bouquet. Potted plants that can be transferred to the garden are a great reminder of the holidays. They also help the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide.
10. Don’t host a trashy party. Even though paper or plastic plates and utensils are convenient, they also create a lot of trash that goes to your local landfill. The holidays are a perfect time to show off your nice dishes. If you don’t have enough of something, ask friends to bring a set of plates, glasses or utensils. At least you can use your dishwasher, since most use less water than washing by hand.
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