Green Christmas Tips for an Earth-Friendly Holiday Season

No matter what holiday traditions we enjoy, we can all find room for some green in our celebrations. Making your Christmas more eco-friendly doesn’t require serving organic granola and tofurkey cooked with solar power–many of the tips below are not only green, but also money-saving and creative.

Trees – Artificial trees last longer, but when they are finally disposed of, they will lie in landfills for centuries. Real trees are sustainable, as they are grown on established farms; however they are often grown with pesticides and shipped long distances.

If you choose an artificial tree, try to find one made in the U.S., since these are less likely to contain toxins. And, instead of throwing out and old artificial tree, you might consider donating it to a local charity, shelter, or church.

Prefer the classic Christmas tree? Try to find something locally and organically grown, or even purchase a live tree that can be planted when the holiday season is over. About 30,000,000 Christmas trees end up in landfills each year, but yours doesn’t have to be one of them. With 4,000 tree recycling programs across the U.S., there’s a good chance you can find one near you.

Candles – The warm glow of candlelight lends a festive feel to holiday dinners. Candles made from soy, beeswax, or vegetable-based wax are biodegradable and smoke-free, better than paraffin candles for your health and the environment.

Batteries – In the electronic age, new toys and gadgets often require a steady supply of batteries. To avoid disposing of the toxic chemicals in batteries, you can buy the rechargeable variety.

Shopping – Even if you aren’t a shopaholic, you will probably be buying some gifts over the next month. You can save fuel by coordinating your stops or ordering online. For in-store purchases, you might want to switch to reusable bags–a few of these go a long way toward reducing plastic bag consumption. You can also recycle the cardboard boxes that your online orders come in.

Gifts – Of course, we can’t forget the presents themselves. You don’t have to make a major change in your gifting traditions in order to have a more sustainable holiday. A quick Internet search will reveal a variety of earth-friendly gifts for everyone on your list. Or maybe it’s time to try creating hand-made presents; the personal touch is sure to be appreciated. Not the artistic type? On Etsy.com you can find handcrafted goods from sellers around the world.

Here’s another idea: Instead of giving a friend or family member “stuff,” make a donation in their name to a non-profit organization. Conservation groups, such as National Wildlife Federation, often allow you to symbolically adopt an animal. Or you can protect an acre of forest through Rainforest Action Network.

Lights – Few things represent seasonal cheer as much as holiday lights. If you need a new strand of lights, look for the new LED bulbs. They use 90 percent less energy than old-fashioned holiday lights and, therefore, save you money.

Paper – With a little creativity, you can save trees, money, and landfill space by making your own wrapping paper. You could wrap presents in old maps, fabric, or brown paper decorated with artwork.

Ribbons and bows – Reuse them to reduce your waste.

Regifting is perfectly fine! If you have an item you don’t want, and you know someone who would appreciate it, there is nothing wrong with passing it along to a friend or donating it to a charity.

Try a vegetarian meal – Plant-based foods have a smaller footprint, in terms of pollution, physical space, and energy, than meats do.

Got any green holiday tips of your own? Go ahead and share them in the comments!

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