Forget Having a White Christmas – Make This Holiday Season Green Instead

Let's face it: Christmas often comes with waste. Whether it’s food, gifts, wrapping paper, packaging or gallons of gas burned during travel, the holiday season can be enough to make any eco-conscious person a little uneasy. But rather than giving in to the guilt, try going green this year instead.

Follow this simple list of 15 actions from the Sustainability and Environment Management Office at Vanderbilt University to make your holidays a little greener. From food to travel to decorations, these tips cover it all:

1. At the dinner table, serve meat and vegetables that are locally and sustainably grown.
2. Consider serving less meat and more vegetables. Meat requires more resources to produce than veggies.
3. Plan for fewer leftovers to minimize food waste.
4. When traveling over the river and through the woods, carpool. Encourage your guests to carpool, as well.
5. Turn your thermostat down when you are traveling or having a party – extra guests generate more heat.
6. Send e-cards and e-vites or make holiday phone calls instead of mailing paper greetings and invitations.
7. Use reusable, recyclable or recycled plates, napkins and utensils.
8. Provide recycling containers for your guests. Recruit the kids to collect and sort items.
9. To make your home festive, buy a live tree with a rootball and replant it after the holidays if you can. Or use your town's tree chipper service to recycle your tree into mulch.
10. Swap ornaments and decorations with friends instead of buying new ones.
11. Decorate using items you already have or items that can be reused and enjoyed after your event, such as whole fruit, small plants and herbs.
12. Decorate with fewer lights – consider alternatives like popcorn strings.
13. Put your holiday lights on a timer. If you buy lights, choose LED lights, which use less energy.
14. Consolidate shopping trips to save time, gas and hassle and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
15. Give gifts that require minimal packaging or wrapping, such as tickets, gift cards, antiques, charitable contributions or even just the gift of your time. Consider placing gifts in packaging that can be reused, such as baskets, bags or fabric wrappers.

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