The end of the year holiday season has arrived at last. It is a wonderful time for gathering together to celebrate the richness of life with family and friends.  But somehow, these worthy celebrations have been hijacked by the retail establishment turning the end of the year into a frenzy of shopping for gifts and overconsumption.  This excessive consumption can not only be stressful and financially burdensome, but also takes a significant toll on the environment.

How much of our overconsumption normally ends up in landfills? Then think about the additional amount of waste we create during the entire holiday season from the paper, cardboard and plastic wrapping and shipping products that are used in abundance, to the disposable dishes, plastic cups, bottled water, excess wasted food… The list goes on.  The Ewing Green Team has collected an extensive list of suggestions for reducing, reusing and recycling to green your holiday season.  We hope that there are suggestions here for everyone.

The Holiday Greeting Card

  • Send out e-cards instead of mailing them. This will save some trees, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created while delivering them and more. It will even save $$!
  • Cut back. Send your mailed holiday greetings only to those family and friends who truly will be glad to receive them.
  • Wish someone a happy holiday by phone instead of sending them a card. It will make their day to be remembered with a personal connection!
  • Cut up and use the cards that you received last year as tags for your gifts this year!
  • Look for a higher percentage of recycled content for any cards that you do purchase.

Gift Wrap

Wrapping paper is a major and expensive source of waste. Here are a number of suggestions for greening your wrapping styles.

  • Decorate with live greens from your yard instead of bows.
  • Put gifts in reusable packaging, such as baskets, bags, or fabric wrappers. Who can’t use an extra basket?
  • Just use a ribbon for an oversized object or make it the object of a treasure hunt.
  • Be creative in your gift wrapping approach. Eschew the store bought wrapping with these suggestions from tree hugger.com or check out Pinterest for their DIY eco-friendly gift wrapping suggestions.
  • Reuse gift wrap that you already have (the gift bags that are so popular in the stores are perfect for that!)
  • Wrap gifts in old maps, newspaper, brown paper grocery bags or kids’ artwork. Almost any paper you have around the house is capable of being creatively repurposed.
  • Don’t for get to save any bows and bags you already have for reuse. Save them for next holiday season to keep excess items out of the waste cycle.

Reusable Bags

  • Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags as you shop. You can do this most of the year. It really does get easier to remember!
  • If you forget your own reusable bags, consolidate purchases into one bag rather than using several.

Be More Energy Efficient

  • If you plan on updating your holiday lighting, purchase more energy efficient LED light strands instead. These are long lasting and will decrease your energy consumption by 80-90 percent!
  • Don’t forget to put lights on timers while you’re away for both safety and energy reduction.
  • When hosting a party, lower the thermostat. The bodies in the room will quickly heat up the room.
  • Recycle your old inefficient holiday lights at Holiday LEDS.

Gift Giving

Change your gift giving focus. How many unused gifts do you have hanging around in your closet?  Donate those items to local charities.  Or, better yet, instead of giving unneeded gifts to someone who already has plenty, gift them with a donation to their favorite charity in their name.

  • Give the gift of an experience: from tickets to the theater or a sporting event, to music lessons, to a gift certificate for a massage. Experiences make memories and you don’t have to wrap the gift.
  • Give a gift that helps someone go green. I’ve given reusable stainless steel drinking straws and water bottles, as well as reusable bags. Additional suggestions could include energy-saving power strips (think of all of those appliances that are constantly on…)
  • If you plan to gift with an electronic purchase be sure to look for consider the energy efficiency of your choice. Look for Energy Star rated models from the EPA.
  • Give creatively of things that require little or no packaging. Give the gift of your time i.e. cooking, babysitting, or gardening…
  • Purchase locally if you can. You will use less gas and support your local economy.
  • Don’t forget to unsubscribe! How many of those catalogs that you received in the mail this year did you actually purchase from? And, you can look at their products online. Use Catalog Choice to cancel nearly all catalogs in one location.
  • Shipping – don’t forget to reuse packaging and shipping materials. And drop off extra peanuts at local shipping companies (check out our list here).

The Holiday Greens

Choosing between an artificial tree and a real tree can be a difficult decision. Here are some things to consider while decorating for the holidays.

  • Get a tree that can be planted or mulched afterward that is native to the area. Check out the Ewing Environmental Commission’s article on Christmas tree care.
  • Make your own wreaths and table centerpieces using materials from your yard or around your home.

Holiday Food

Eat more sustainably sourced food. Buy from your local farmers.  Buy organic if you can.  Food that hasn’t been grown or prepared using antibiotics, growth hormones, chemical fertilizers and pesticides is better for you and the environment.  Consider meat that has had humane living conditions prior to slaughter.   Green your meal with more vegetables.  There are a number of community supported agriculture (CSA) program in our area. Consider giving a membership them.

  • So much food is prepared during the holidays and much of it is in excess of what is actually needed. Try to estimate actual head counts more accurately to eliminate excess food waste.
  • Aim for a Zero- Waste event by eschewing the disposable dishware and utensils, eliminating excess packaging by serving food in large containers instead of single-servings, providing bulk water, coffee and drinks instead of individually packaged products, serving bite-sized or finger foods to minimize plate and utensil use.
  • If you absolutely must use disposable products, make sure that they are made from recycled or compostable materials.
  • Don’t forget that you can compost your vegetative food waste all year long.

Travel

  • Encourage and participate in carpooling to and from holiday celebrations.
  • Make sure your tires are fully inflated to achieve optimal gas mileage while traveling.
  • Turn down your electric and gas water heaters to conserve energy and gas while you are away.

Happy Holidays from the Ewing Green Team!