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Deck the Halls, Sustainably

The final weeks of the year are some of the most joyous thanks to celebrations with friends and family. However, despite the festive cheer we all feel, it’s important to consider our celebrations’ environmental impact. An analysis from Study Finds found that 43 percent of Americans waste more during the holidays, which adds up to twenty-nine extra pounds of trash per person. That equates to seven million pounds of excess waste. So this year, focus on the green more than the red as you get into the holiday spirit.

Throw eco-friendly parties

How you serve your holiday meals can impact how much waste you produce. When purchasing items for your table setting, consider reusable plates and utensils. If you prefer the convenience of disposable versions, choose biodegradable options like those made from palm leaf, sugarcane, or other plant-based materials. Here are some additional ideas to reduce waste:


  • Use cloth napkins and towels

  • Ask party guests to bring reusable containers for leftovers

  • Keep your recycling bin in clear view during parties

  • Avoid buying individual serving beverages

  • Store leftovers with reusable food wrap instead of plastic wrap

Rethink your gifts


There’s nothing better than seeing the joy on a loved one’s face as they open a gift you gave them. However, you don’t need to buy new items to please your favorite people. You can create homemade gifts, such as baked goods, candles, or crafts. Another great option is to gift experiences, like concert tickets, dinner at a popular restaurant, or museum or park passes.


Choose sustainable gift wrap


Traditional wrapping paper is generally not the most sustainable option. Rolls of wrapping paper may contain glitter, foil, and other coatings, which aren’t typically recyclable. However, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives perfect for wrapping gifts. Fabric is a popular option that not only looks great but also is reusable. You

can repurpose paper products from around your home, such as old maps, newspapers, or unused brown paper bags, as alternatives or you can leave the gift unwrapped. For example, give your favorite chef gifts inside a mixing bowl or a loved one with a green thumb gardening supplies inside a planter. Finally, try using compostable twine instead of ribbon.


Go with a real tree


While you might think it is better to put up an artificial tree, that isn’t necessarily true. You can reuse a fake tree for several years, but they produce a large amount of carbon emissions during production and shipping, can be challenging to recycle, and

are not usually biodegradable. However, a real tree may take up to ten years to grow on a farm and will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that entire time. Best of all, many areas allow you to recycle trees after the holidays, with some cities creating mulch out of collected trees.


Brighten things up


If you plan to decorate your home with strands of lights, it may be time to upgrade to LED varieties. They consume up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent lights and last up to twenty-five times longer. Search online for a nearby recycling center that can dispose of your old strands of lights. To reduce your energy consumption even further, consider purchasing a timer for your existing lights or lights with a

preinstalled timer, or set a reminder for yourself to turn them off before going to bed.


Upgrade your card


Don’t overlook the environmental impact of your yearly holiday cards—more than 1.3 billion cards are sent every year around the holidays in the United States. While some of those may be saved or recycled, many will find their way into trashcans. Rethink how you greet friends and family this time of year, and consider an alternative to sending traditional cards.


Environmentally friendly options include:

  • Sending e-cards

  • Creating a slideshow and sharing it online

  • Filming a holiday video and sending it to loved ones

  • Using eco-friendly cards, such as those made from recyclable or compostable materials

Reconsider how you celebrate the holidays, and try some sustainable options. It’s the best gift you can give the planet.


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