Give the Environment a Holiday Gift – Celebrate Sustainably

We love the holidays!  It is wonderful time of celebration, of family, of good food and good times.  However, despite all of the good times and feelings, it can also be a time of excess, waste, and great stress.  With a little thought, we think that you can green your holiday rituals and celebrations and make them more meaningful.  Read on for a few tips on how to celebrate the holidays more sustainably.

The Christmas Tree – Real or Fake?

Real

  • Christmas tree farms encompass many thousands of acres across the US and Canada, keeping an awful lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  And for every tree that is harvested each year, it is typically replaced by more tree seedlings which will continue to sequester carbon dioxide for us.
  • They provide desperately needed food and habitat for many of our wild creatures.
  • Make sure that you are buying local to reduce your transportation duns on the environment.

Fake

  • Fake trees are primarily made of plastic and mostly in China.  Transportation costs are high for this option, as are environmental ones from the non-biodegradable plastics to the possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • Invasive insects such as grubs could also have hitched a ride so they might pose an additional challenge.
  • However, it is possible that some people with allergies to pollen or terpenes will likely benefit from use of a fake tree.  In that case, be sure to store the tree carefully so that it’s many usages over the years will overcome its high carbon footprint.
  • Consider using a potted tree.  It has the advantage of being able to be used for a number of years and then when it becomes too big to move, it can be planted in your yard.

For more information about the real vs. fake dilemma, read on for this very helpful and informative article from The Nature Conservancy.

Christmas Lights

  • Make the switch to LED lights that use one tenth as much energy as conventional holiday lights and last much longer.
  • Recycle your old lights.  Home Depot offers a recycling option before the holidays, but for those of you just reading this article that certainly won’t work.  Holiday LEDs (www.holidayleds.com) offers a year round recycling option.  Send them your old lights and they will send you a 15% coupon towards a purchase of new LED lighting.  For details, go to their recycling information page.
  • Use your lights sparingly.  Turn them off during the day and when most people are in for the night.  Timers are an effective way to manage this.  Don’t keep them on when no one is around.  This also helps to reduce potential fire hazards.

Gifting

  • Give the gift of an experience.  Whether a show or sporting event you will make memories to cherish.
  • Buy less.  Give the gift of your time.  It can be promising to take an elderly relative on errands or doing yard work or other house work.   Make homemade coupons or certificates!
  • Buy local.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  Not only does it reduce transportation costs, but it also supports your local community.
  • Minimalize your consumerism.  Instead of giving to everyone, have a Secret Santa gift exchange.  Add a twist to it with a White Elephant gift exchange and you can have a lot of fun trying to come up with the best gift in the exchange.  (Rules)
  • Give to favorite charity for your group.
  • Give handmade gifts.  They are always so appreciated.  From your homemade breads, cookies, or jams to knitted or crocheted items, the list of possibilities are endless.
  • Give gifts of books and magazines to help spread the “green” bug.

Wrapping

  • Çhoose sustainable gift wrap.  Use recycled wrapping paper.  Avoid use metallic or glossy paper that are not so environmentally friendly.
  • Use gift bags.  They are easily reused year after year.
  • Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap.  This can include fabric, handkerchiefs, bandanas, scarves, thin towels, newspaper, and discarded paper items.  Put your gift in a pretty reusable basket.
  • Ribbons are easy to save and reuse.  Cut down used wrapping paper and reuse.
  • Save your holiday cards and use to make gift tags.

Your Holiday Dinner

  • Don’t forget to avoid using disposable products – no paper napkins or plates or glasses.  This is the time to bring out your holiday tableware.  Washing dishes afterwards is a small price to pay to reduce your trash output.
  • Food.  Buy local, free range and organic.  All of these options reduce the impact of your food choices on the environment.  They also have the added benefit of being the healthier choice.
  • Avoiding buying beverages in individual containers will also reduce waste.
  • Don’t forget to compost as much as you can from the holiday leftovers.

These are just a few suggestions out of the many possibilities for minimizing your environmental impact during the holiday season.   We think that employing them will help you minimize the amount of waste from your celebrations and also help to minimize your stress levels.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season from the Ewing Green Team!

Give the Environment a Holiday Gift – Celebrate Sustainably

We love the holidays!  It is wonderful time of celebration, of family, of good food and good times.  However, despite all of the good times and feelings, it can also be a time of excess, waste, and great stress.  With a little thought, we think that you can green your holiday rituals and celebrations and make them more meaningful.  Read on for a few tips on how to celebrate the holidays more sustainably.

The Christmas Tree – Real or Fake?

Real

  • Christmas tree farms encompass many thousands of acres across the US and Canada, keeping an awful lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  And for every tree that is harvested each year, it is typically replaced by more tree seedlings which will continue to sequester carbon dioxide for us.
  • They provide desperately needed food and habitat for many of our wild creatures.
  • Make sure that you are buying local to reduce your transportation duns on the environment.

Fake

  • Fake trees are primarily made of plastic and mostly in China.  Transportation costs are high for this option, as are environmental ones from the non-biodegradable plastics to the possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • Invasive insects such as grubs could also have hitched a ride so they might pose an additional challenge.
  • However, it is possible that some people with allergies to pollen or terpenes will likely benefit from use of a fake tree.  In that case, be sure to store the tree carefully so that it’s many usages over the years will overcome its high carbon footprint.
  • Consider using a potted tree.  It has the advantage of being able to be used for a number of years and then when it becomes too big to move, it can be planted in your yard.

For more information about the real vs. fake dilemma, read on for this very helpful and informative article from The Nature Conservancy.

Christmas Lights

  • Make the switch to LED lights that use one tenth as much energy as conventional holiday lights and last much longer.
  • Recycle your old lights.  Home Depot offers a recycling option before the holidays, but for those of you just reading this article that certainly won’t work.  Holiday LEDs (www.holidayleds.com) offers a year round recycling option.  Send them your old lights and they will send you a 15% coupon towards a purchase of new LED lighting.  For details, go to their recycling information page.
  • Use your lights sparingly.  Turn them off during the day and when most people are in for the night.  Timers are an effective way to manage this.  Don’t keep them on when no one is around.  This also helps to reduce potential fire hazards.

Gifting

  • Give the gift of an experience.  Whether a show or sporting event you will make memories to cherish.
  • Buy less.  Give the gift of your time.  It can be promising to take an elderly relative on errands or doing yard work or other house work.   Make homemade coupons or certificates!
  • Buy local.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  Not only does it reduce transportation costs, but it also supports your local community.
  • Minimalize your consumerism.  Instead of giving to everyone, have a Secret Santa gift exchange.  Add a twist to it with a White Elephant gift exchange and you can have a lot of fun trying to come up with the best gift in the exchange.  (Rules)
  • Give to favorite charity for your group.
  • Give handmade gifts.  They are always so appreciated.  From your homemade breads, cookies, or jams to knitted or crocheted items, the list of possibilities are endless.
  • Give gifts of books and magazines to help spread the “green” bug.

Wrapping

  • Çhoose sustainable gift wrap.  Use recycled wrapping paper.  Avoid use metallic or glossy paper that are not so environmentally friendly.
  • Use gift bags.  They are easily reused year after year.
  • Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap.  This can include fabric, handkerchiefs, bandanas, scarves, thin towels, newspaper, and discarded paper items.  Put your gift in a pretty reusable basket.
  • Ribbons are easy to save and reuse.  Cut down used wrapping paper and reuse.
  • Save your holiday cards and use to make gift tags.

Your Holiday Dinner

  • Don’t forget to avoid using disposable products – no paper napkins or plates or glasses.  This is the time to bring out your holiday tableware.  Washing dishes afterwards is a small price to pay to reduce your trash output.
  • Food.  Buy local, free range and organic.  All of these options reduce the impact of your food choices on the environment.  They also have the added benefit of being the healthier choice.
  • Avoiding buying beverages in individual containers will also reduce waste.
  • Don’t forget to compost as much as you can from the holiday leftovers.

These are just a few suggestions out of the many possibilities for minimizing your environmental impact during the holiday season.   We think that employing them will help you minimize the amount of waste from your celebrations and also help to minimize your stress levels.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season from the Ewing Green Team!

Recycling Your Old Holiday Lights a Bright Idea

Have you just dragged out the Christmas lights again only to find that you have strands that are only working intermittently or not working at all? (sigh)  Are your lights old and outdated?  Or have you been bitten by the little green bug and decided to purchase energy efficient LED lights this year?  Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in the market for new lights this season.  So, once you’ve greened up your holiday display with more energy efficient lighting, what should you do with the old lights?  Whatever you do, don’t throw them away.  Recycle them.  Unfortunately, having googled this extensively, we haven’t found a lot of options.  But there are two holiday light recycling programs that we’ve identified for repurposing your old lights.   They both give you discount coupons towards the purchase of even more energy efficient LED light sets.

Home Depot
Home Depot runs an “Eco Options Christmas Light Trade In” program through all Home Depot stores every year but it is only available during the Christmas holiday season.   It starts in November and concludes in early December.  Bring your old incandescent Christmas light strings to the Home Depot for recycling and you’ll receive $3 -$5 discount coupon toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED Christmas lights for each strand.  (some restrictions apply)

HolidayLeds.com
The other program is run by HolidayLEDs.com and you can participate in it anytime throughout the year.   It was responsible for the recycling of 10,000 pounds of holiday lights during the 2009/2010 holiday season.  It’s easy to participate and all you have to do is send them your old Christmas lights for recycling and they’ll send you a discount coupon.

How does the program work? 
Simply pack up your old lights and send them to them via the least expensive method possible.  They ask that you:

  • Don’t include any packing material or anything other than the lights themselves or send the lights in outer packaging such as retail boxes or include any apparatus used to wind up or store the lights.
  • Use cardboard boxes or other packaging that can easily be recycled.
  • Compact your light sets into the smallest space possible in the smallest box possible without any extra packing or plastic bags.

They are located in Wisconsin so there is no way to do this locally.  They recommend that you coordinate with your friends, neighbors, co-works, social groups, church groups, or other organizations when possible to collect lights and send in one bulk shipment.  This will reduce shipping costs for everyone as well as reducing environmental impact of shipping.

Send to:
Holiday LEDS Recycling
13400 Watertown Plank Rd. Suite 34
Elm Grove, WI 53122

What Happens to the Lights?
Once they are received they are removed them from the package and the box is recycled. The lights are processed and any material that cannot be recycled such as loose bulbs is discarded. Once substantial number of sets has been collected they are taken to a third party recycling facility which puts them through a commercial shredder. The resultant little pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights (PVC, glass, copper.) The materials are separated and transported to a region center for further processing. In some cases, the PVC cannot be recycled.