'Tis the Season for Green!
By Contributing Writer, Michael Harrington
Happy Holidays! I was going to write up a big article about greening your holidays, but this site says it so much better: http://www.greenamericatoday.org/programs/shopunshop/buyinggreen/HolidayTips.cfm(courtesy of GreenAmericaToday.org).
During the holiday season, waste disposal increases 25% in the United States, causing an extra 5 billion pounds of waste in the landfills according to the Medical University of South Carolina. Plus, travelers will be logging tons of miles and creating tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Here are tips to help you plan ahead to reduce your waste and green your gift giving this year:
1. Don't Buy Wrapping Paper
Reuse old wrapping paper or put your gifts in reusable bags or boxes. Be creative about giving old materials new life -scraps of fabric, magazines, or calendars make great patchwork bags or collage wrapping paper.
2. Send Tree-free Holiday Cards
Search the National Green Pages for cards made from kenaf, hemp, and other tree-free resources. Or, send e-cards and avoid the wait at the post office for stamps.
3. Hold a Zero Waste Holiday Party
Host a zero-waste party. Minimize the garbage by asking people to bring their own cups, plates and utensils if you don't have enough of your own. Use fabric tablecloths and napkins. Then be sure to recycle any post-party cans and bottles and compost food scraps.
4. Consider the Lifecycle of Electronic Gifts
Some of the most popular gift items for children and teens are electronics like computers, video games, and music devices. But the manufacturing and disposal of these items creates significant human health and environmental hazards. To learn more about the environmental impact of computers and electronic devices, check out the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. The Recycled Video Games Network is a great resource to dispose of old equipment or buy recycled games and systems for less, reducing the amount of new materials made.
5. Give Gifts from the Heart
Instead of spending money on commercial goods, give the gift of your time and talent to loved ones this year. Offer to make dinner, walk the dog, help with gardening or home repairs, or invite friends over for Fair Trade coffee and tea.
6. Give the Gift of a Better World
Make a donation in honor of a loved one. Choose a cause that addresses an issue that you and your friends and family members care about and support. Green America offers gift memberships at special rates during the holiday. Green America gift memberships are a great way to support our work for a green future while introducing more people to the ideas of just and sustainable purchasing and investing. Give gift memberships »
7. Green Your Holiday Travel
If you are one of the many people planning to log a lot of travel miles this holiday season, don't forget to look into green options for getting around. Better World Travelers Club can help you offset the carbon emissions from your travel through their Travel Cool program. Plus, Green America has partnered with Native Energy to help you offset your energy impact, including travel impact, fund the production of more wind energy, and generate support Green America's Green Energy program.
8. Buy Green Gifts
If you choose to give presents over the holidays, shop with green businesses listed in the National Green Pages. This year, a number of green businesses are offering special discounts to make green gift giving even easier. Check out our Green Gift Catalog.
9. Avoid Toys Made with PVC plastic
70% of PVC is used in construction, but it is also found in everyday plastics, including some children’s toys. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen. Also, additives, such as lead and cadmium, are sometimes added to PVC to keep it from breaking down; these additives can be particularly dangerous in children’s toys. PVC is also the least recycled plastic. Find safe toys in the National Green Pages™ »
10. Recycle Packaging From Gifts
To reduce environmental impacts, it is important to recycle all cardboard packaging and peanuts or other Styrofoam packing that comes with gifts or purchases as these items will not de-compost in a landfill but can be used over and over again for packaging and shipping. The National Green Pages contains several listings for easy drop-off centers for both types of waste.
A few other things you can do are not to buy an actual or plastic tree (if that is your thing), but try to think of other ways to decorate without promoting the cutting and temporary use of trees or plastic. Also, since it is a bit colder and buying all those gifts can take a chunk out of your wallet, weatherizing your home and taking small steps (such as lowering your thermostat by 3 degrees or an optimal 68 degrees and lowering the temp by 8 degrees when asleep or away at work) will save you a lot!
Having a green holiday does not take a lot of work, and will not put a damper on the spirit of celebration; in fact, knowing that you’re keeping our planet cleaner should brighten your mood even more!
Enjoy, and have a happy green holiday!
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