Six ways to green your holidays
Something shifts in the air when December arrives and holiday decorations frenzy is embraced by millions around the world. Heavily-weighted branches, blinking lights and tons of tinsel are favorites. Sadly, this seasonal bling carries a massive environmental price. The season’s packaging, transport and waste has a large impact. Here’s 6 eco-friendly ways to decorate for Christmas.
From plastic to basic
Before glass balls came along early decorations tended to use what was at hand: apples, wool, cotton, thread, gilded walnuts and even home-baked cookies.
When we celebrate Christmas we buy and decorate the tree, buy presents and write cards. This has turned Christmas into the planet’s least environmentally friendly holiday. We stroll to the mall in search of gifts, many of them imported and transported, packaged in plastic or styrofoam. Than we buy wrapping paper, Christmas cards and plenty of ornaments.
BBC News says Britons throw out more than 125,000 tons of plastic packaging and 4,200 tons of foil during Christmas, generating an extra 3 million tons of waste during the holiday season. All this waste ends up in landfills, generating methane emissions that send harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Christmas is however a time of romance, magic and a doorway to a fairyland. Something we embrace despite its environmental price tag. We can make a difference at this season too and reduce our carbon footprint around Christmas. Here’s what we can do to green our holidays:
Reuse the wrapping paper. You can even be a bit inventive and wrap your gifts with old maps – for the traveler in your life – or with newspapers. According to one calculation, if every family in the US wrapped a mere three gifts in last year’s paper, they would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. If you must buy paper, at least make sure it’s recycled. The manufacturing process of paper is hugely resource-hungry.
Ditch the gift wrap. Substitute it with something more fun. Like an empty tin or a piece of bright silk or cotton or hemp tied into a knot; you can always re-use a shimmering piece of colored cloth.
Lighten up. Still using old-fashioned lights? Each time one burns out, replace it with an LED (light-emitting diode bulb) for a whopping 95% energy saving. And they last longer.
Recycle, recycle. Once the Christmas tree has served its purpose, take it to an appropriate recycling center – and don’t forget to snip off a few branches to make garlands and wreaths. Trees contain important nutrients that can be used in compost. All the wrapping paper should be recycled too.
Go tech-savvy. Some of us love to receive Christmas cards in envelopes especially grandma but perhaps we can substitute e-cards for our nearest and dearest. Americans buy 2.65 billion cards each Christmas, and in the UK one billion cards are thrown out each year. According to Canada Post, it takes 575 daily flights, 6,000 postal vehicles and an extra 150 highway service vehicles to deliver each season’s nearly 800 million cards, letters and packages. And that’s just Canada. With modern technology we can save a lot of energy and waste.
Decorate with natural Resources. Use wood, cotton, wool and everything else our ancestors had at hand. Look around your garden. We may have lost some ability to be creative but it can be exercised and rediscovered.
Remember: Anything manufactured will have cost money and has used up valuable natural resources during processing and shipping.
So choose your decorations and gifts carefully and be sure not to waste your money on garbage.
Christmas is truly the most magical time of the year, enjoy your first greenest holiday.
Learn why you should stop buying cheap clothes.
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