By Fredrica Syren:
Major holidays always seem to equal lots of waste but not so much eco-friendliness. It does not have to be like that. With just a little planning and very little effort, it’s absolutely possible to have an eco-friendly Christmas that is still budget friendly.
Here are my top tips:
Send electronic Christmas cards—Save the trees and paper, and send all your Christmas Cards electronically this year.
DIY Christmas gifts–Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and must be bought new, but many gifts are nice gestures of thoughtfulness. Keep in mind that not all presents have to be bought in a store, but can be made at home. You can give more while spending less by creating your own or purchasing a locally crafted item or service. These gifts lend a personal and unique touch. Adults especially appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Some ideas are listed here for you:
Edible goodies—I love receiving homemade edible presents because the time, energy and culinary creativity is highly appreciated as much or more than that store-bought gift. The gift of food is personal, is better for the environment and not likely to go to waste.
Donate money to charity instead—I for one think it’s very nice to give a Christmas gift that can help others instead of worrying about buying the perfect gift for someone. Now, if this donation also helps save the planet, it’s a win-win in my book. Here is a list of my favorite charities.
Skip disposable paper gift wrap and use alternative wraps—There are so many different ways to wrap a gift that do not involve disposable paper: towels, recycled newspaper, fabrics and glass jars. You can read more about that here and here.
Incorporate reusable or natural decorations—Forget disposable decorations that will simply fill up your trash can; instead, say hello to anything you can use again. Why not employ nature’s materials like fallen branches, leaves, pinecones, etc.? Once you’ve finished with them, you can add them to the compost — or why not use them to decorate the garden?
Skip the paper plates, plastic cups, bowls, napkins, etc.—I know that no one likes to do dishes all night after a party; but while plastic or Styrofoam cups and disposable dishware and utensils may be more convenient, they’re incredibly wasteful and they do end up in a landfill after the party. We use our regular plates and glasses, and — oh, yeah — it means more dishes for us to clean afterward. But nothing is more wasteful than disposable products. If you do want to utilize something disposable, choose items made from natural materials like cornstarch or bamboo that can be recycled or composted.
Use cloth tablecloths and napkins—Again, I know this does require more work with laundry afterward, too, but it’s a great way to reduce trash. Besides, it’s cheaper and looks way better.
Make fun organic and healthy treats—One major way to cut down on waste is to buy organic food from a local farmers’ market. Buy loose rather than pre-packaged food (even vegetables). I know it means more slicing and cutting, but it’s the best green way. While you’re shopping for your party food, implement reusable produce bags. Google some fun, inspiring holiday treats to serve like this one from Martha Stewart or some vegan ones, perhaps.
Eat less meat—Please don’t kill the messenger, but truth is that the meat industry creates a huge negative impact on the environment because livestock generates more greenhouse gas emissions (as measured in CO2 equivalency) than transport does, and is also a major source of land and water degradation. Unfortunately, it’s not just the beef industry that causes the most damage to the planet; all kinds of animal agriculture are major causes of global warming. So, yes, more veggies and less meat for Christmas dinner will make the holiday eco-friendlier.
Recycle your live tree—According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 20-30 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. each year. Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. Additionally, there is great cost environmentally in transporting all these trees to the landfill. Live trees that have been cut are renewable, recyclable and compostable. Composting requires a carbon source, and Christmas trees are just right for municipal operations which use chippers to shred the material. Look for tree drop-off locations in your neighborhood — most cities have specific drop-off sites. Most artificial trees can also be recycled, as they are usually made from twisted metal which is accepted by most recycling centers. Please check with your local center about your tree if you have an older artificial tree that needs replacing.
No food waste—Save leftovers and let your imagination turn them into to new fun dishes. (Or search Pinterest.) Give guests the leftovers in mason jars. If you’re serving turkey, save the carcass of the turkey breast and use as a base for making broth the next day, either on the stove or by slow cooker.
Compost what you can’t eat—Food waste costs money, but more importantly, it is a huge environmental problem, so compost any food that simply cannot be eaten as leftovers.
Recycle or reuse used gift wrap—Instead of sending used gift wrap to a landfill, recycle it, or why not use it for crafts instead.