Andrew Laursen, assistant professor in Ryerson University’s Department of Chemistry and Biology, kicks off the eco-friendly celebration with these suggestions:
- Look for recycled content in wrapping paper. This can be difficult to find and may actually require online ordering, but expressing demand will help drive its availability.
- Recycle your own wrapping paper, boxes and plastic packaging.
- Scale back on the elaborate outdoor displays. You can be festive without being Times Square.
- If you do use outdoor light displays, use a timer so the lights are on display only at times when there is an audience.
- Give your cookies away on a real plate or recyclable plate. Likewise, if you're hosting a party, either bite the bullet and actually do all those dishes, or use recyclable ones.
- Take the time in your holiday party aftermath to sort through all the cans and bottles that can be recycled.
- Make good use of your green bin and/or compost bin this holiday season. Uneaten food from holiday dinners and parties can go in here, as can scraps from meal preparation, soiled napkins and paper food packaging, coffee grounds and tea bags, paper plates and your great aunt's famous fruitcake.
Reducing and Reusing
- When gift giving, try an “experience” present, like tickets to a show, or a night at a hotel. It's something personal that isn't loaded up with all that packaging.
- Buy sustainable. Many stores offer fair-trade products.
- Real trees are great, but consider artificial. If buying a real tree, look for trees that are grown locally. Many are shipped from a great distance consuming fuel to bring them to local Christmas tree lots.
- Take reusable bags with you when you go Christmas shopping. Don't let all that extra shopping generate extra plastic.
- Save your money, save the environment and spare yourself from long hours of looking for the proper gift items at the mall. Start a trend: show you care with some thoughtful homemade gifts. Local, organic, nutritious food items freshly out of your kitchen can work very well.
- When practicing your out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new New Year’s routine, don't just throw out old toys, clothes, shoes and household items. All these items can be donated to organizations that support people less fortunate who would be happy to have them.
A Sustainable Holiday
Wake Forest University Director of Sustainability Dedee DeLongpré Johnston also offers some helpful eco-friendly holiday tips:
Use sustainable gift-wrap. Consider saving and re-using holiday wrapping paper just as your grandmother once did. Or wrap your gifts in pretty fabric that can be used for other purposes. "In my family, we re-gift gift bags again and again," DeLongpré Johnston said. "Pillowcases can also make pretty gift wraps if done right."
Decorate with energy-efficient lighting. While many people still use standard incandescent holiday bulbs, decorative LED lights are now available in a variety of holiday shapes and colors. In addition to having a much longer lifespan than standard lights, LEDs also reduce fire risks because they stay cool to the touch. "This would be one of the areas where you might spend a little more upfront, but save in the long run,” explained DeLongpré Johnston. Want to be even greener? Use light-sensor timers to turn your lights on and off.
Give consumable gifts. Most of us don't need more stuff, or as DeLongpré Johnston points out, we're all "stuffed out." So consider giving the gift of services instead, or goods that can be consumed. Some ideas include massages, pedicures, tickets to sporting events, gift certificates for restaurants and other similar pampering treats. Other options would be to give consumable gifts that keep on giving all year long, like a membership to a wine of the month club or a monthly delivery of seasonal fruits grown locally.
Make a donation in someone's name. When someone has a passion in life, giving to an organization that supports his or her cause can be very meaningful. Whether you donate a flock of chicks to support a hungry family through Heifer International or fund the planting of trees through American Forest, you will be giving a gift that gives back and helps preserve the environment at the same time.
Give the gift of time. Schedule time to get together with friends and family for cookie exchanges or other meaningful holiday events.
Treecyle. If you have a cut tree, check with your local municipality to find out when they will pick it up for recycling. Fortunately, you'll be in good company. More than 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States each year, but more than 90 percent are being recycled for mulch or chipped and used in parks and other public spaces.