This year is all about having an eco-conscious Christmas. It may seem like a daunting task to turn your attention to the environment during such a hectic time, but it’s actually easier than you think to take a greener approach to the festive season. To help get you started, we put together nine easy changes you can make now to give your holidays an Earth-friendly twist.
We asked Debra Duneier, certified eco-designer and author of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience, to share her top tips for greening your Christmas. “Each of us as individuals has the ability to bring about positive change for our world,” she says. “The good news is that small steps can lead to significant change, making it easy to be green.”
Opt for eco-friendly lights
Festive, twinkly lights are a must for creating a festive home, but don’t go with just any lights — make the more eco-conscious choice. “Update your holiday lighting to include LED light strings,” Duneier says. They’re durable, use 80 percent less electricity and can last for many seasons.
Endless rolls of wrapping may look festive but they’re also a waste when you consider how quickly most kids tear into gifts Christmas morning. If you can, make an effort to save bows and wrapping paper from year to year when opening your gifts and reuse them. “It’s a sound money-saving strategy and you may also be saving a tree,” Duneier says. You can also wrap with gifts with newsprint or package your items in colorful cloth gift bags.
Say no to disposables
Use your china or stoneware dishes when entertaining and stay away from plastic dishes and utensils. “Plastic leaches chemicals into your food, and when you throw it away it takes up to 500 years to decompose in nature,” Duneier explains. If you have to entertain using disposable dishes, search for eco-friendly products that are compostable. We love this compostable party kit featuring plates, bowls, trays, cups and utensils, all made from compostable material (Branch Home, starting at $49).
Use natural decor
Bring the outdoors inside for a truly natural holiday. Duneier suggests using pine cones, acorns, gourds and fresh flowers to decorate your holiday table rather than anything artificial. Another great option is to grow an indoor herb garden, she says. “It makes the room smell great and is a tasty addition to your holiday recipes.”
Choose a real tree
This year go for the real deal rather than an artificial tree. You might not have realized it, but real Christmas trees offer many environmental benefits, Duneier tells us. Tree farms absorb carbon dioxide, help protect water supplies and offer shelter to wildlife.
Recycle your tree
The downside with real trees is the fact they end up on the curb or in the alley after the holidays and ultimately finish up in a landfill. Be sure to recycle your Christmas tree this year. Earth911.com offers a list of recycling organizations near you. Some of the advantages:
- Recycling your tree saves valuable landfill space.
- Christmas trees are turned into mulch, which can be used in parks and gardens.
- Christmas trees can be used as sand erosion barriers on beaches.
- You can put your tree in the backyard (using a plant stand) to be used as winter shelter for birds and other animals.
In preparation for the holiday season, plug or seal any air leaks around windows, doorways and ductwork in your home. This is an easy way to reduce energy use by up to 20 percent, plus it will make sure you stay warm and cozy all winter. “It’s so simple that you can do it yourself in one weekend with a tube of caulk,” says Duneier.
As you shop for gifts and other holiday items this year, keep in mind that everything you buy that comes from far away was transported using more fuel than items that are produced or manufactured locally, explains Duneier. “Use your dollars to support local businesses and at the same time cut down on the carbon emissions used to transport these items.”
Don’t prewash dishes
Don’t prewash your dishes before putting them in your dishwasher. It might seem like a necessary step, but dishwashers today are made to do the whole job, Duneier says. “What surprises most people is that you save more water by running the dishwasher than by hand-washing your dishes.” If you have to prewash, do it in a tub in the sink so you’re you are reusing the water instead of letting the water run.