Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to Have a Green Christmas

It's truly a joyous time of year, and the holidays have the wonderful effect of picking up our spirits and reminding us to be generous and kind to one another, and to really seize any opportunity to pay it forward! On the flip side, all of the excited gift-giving and classic traditions can be incredibly wasteful in a vast number of ways, and it's everyone's responsibility to keep these careless habits in check and attempt to reduce our carbon footprint during the festive season as well as throughout the whole year! Here are a few tips to make your holidays a little greener, and to help you give back to Mother Earth this year!

First off, avoid buying new decorations whenever possible. I tend to find myself getting a little extra spendy during the holidays on decorations and pretty things for the home. By committing to buying only second-hand, we can exponentially cut down on the amount of waste that we'll be throwing out in the years to come.

Once you've decked the halls for the holidays, consider donating or selling any unused decorations, rather than going through the trouble of packing them up and storing them away for another year. Not only would you help the environment by making sure that they're getting reused, but you'll also cut down on clutter and perhaps get some extra cash out of the deal!

Buy reusable shopping bags, then actually use them. I know I went through waaay too many plastic bags this year from Christmas shopping alone, when I could have easily planned ahead and brought my reusable bag. Plus, once you get through the holiday shopping, you'll see how easy it is to carry the habit all year long!

Give, give, give! Be sure to take some time during the holiday season to go through your used items and donate any excess or unwanted clothes and shoes to thrift stores or homeless shelters! Remember that it is the season of generosity and kindness, and to give whatever you can to those in need.

Opt for homemade gifts whenever possible. This is a great way to reuse materials you may already have on hand. Plus, so much of our holiday waste comes from all that plastic packaging! Kill two wasteful birds with one really big eco-friendly stone.

If you're really annoyed by all that unnecessary packaging, consumerism, and over-consumption, then you can pledge to join 1 Million Women in a No-Waste Festive Season! It may seem incredibly difficult, but I love that they remind you on their website that "you don't have to do it all, just do the best you can!" So don't stress too much to try and be the greenest, but every little bit really helps.

Don't buy wrapping paper! Every year, billions of rolls of wrapping paper are purchased just to be ripped up and thrown out. I don't actually have the statistics on that, I'm just using hyperbole here. Anyway, why buy something you're just going to throw away, when you could be wrapping your gifts in newspaper, magazine clippings, or paper bags? If you say it's because brown paper bags aren't decorative enough, then you're just not being creative.

CC image courtesy of Chiot's Run

Bust out the fine china! You may be tempted to crack open the plastic-ware or a pack of styrofoam if you find yourself too overwhelmed to consider the cleanup during the holiday season. Try to inspire the rest of your household to help out too, and remember to really grind in the environmental guilt trip when it comes time to wash the dishes!

Save energy by using LED lights in your decor, and only turn them on when you're there to enjoy them! While you're at it, remember to turn down the heat when you aren't at home.

Recycle your cards! Rather than throwing them out or tossing them into an old shoe-box or drawer, you can donate any cards you may have received throughout the year to a recycled card program, such as the one at St, Jude's Ranch. They are then recycled into new handmade holiday cards and resold, with the profits benefiting St. Jude's various services and programs for abused and homeless children and adults.

Remember to reuse before recycling! The process of recycling plastic & cardboard uses energy in and of itself, so find ways to reuse these items at least once before sending them to the recycling plant, such as these tin-cans-turned-planters from Lolly Jane, or the Popsicle stick snowflakes from Making Homebase that I featured in my DIY Holiday Decor post!

Speaking of recycling, what do you plan on doing with that old Christmas tree? Every year after Christmas, many families discard their trees on a curbside or dump them in the woods. Here's the thing: with a little research, you can find a tree recycling program in your area to turn it into mulch, ideally reducing the number of trees that would be cut down for this purpose anyway.

If you'd like to avoid killing a tree altogether, you have the option of buying a live one, which you can later plant on your land once the holiday has passed. If you're interested, check out this article on caring for a live tree!

Thanks so much for stopping by! If you've enjoyed this post, please do me a solid by pinning this image to Pinterest or hitting one of the share buttons below. If you have any other ideas on making the holidays more eco-friendly, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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  1. These are great! I only seem to bring my reusable bags for groceries and really need to bring them more often. And I LOVE this card recycling program - so glad you mentioned it, I had no idea!

    1. I know! I have so many cards saved up and I'd LOVE to finally use them for something, so I was super-excited when I discovered it myself!