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I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

a-guide-for-sustainable-holidays

by Tera Clausen, SLCgreen intern

At this time of year, we reflect on what we are grateful for, show more compassion and generosity to others, and we get into the spirit of giving. Unfortunately, we sometimes get wrapped up in all the stuff that symbolizes the spirit of the season rather than embracing the holiday spirit itself.

 Did you know that Americans throw out 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Years than they do the rest of the year? This waste comes from things such as excessive gift giving, wrapping, packaging, and decor. Perhaps you’re wondering how you can reduce your holiday waste without being a total Grinch. Never fear, SLC Green has compiled a list of different ways you can make your holiday season greener without turning into a Scrooge.    

Gift Ideas

  • Give experience. Buy tickets to an event, pay for a massage, give children season passes to the zoo, or take someone out for a nice holiday dinner. Creating memories substantially cuts down on waste and the memories will last a lifetime.
  • A gift from the heart. Think of what you’re good and make something from the heart, like a poem or a painting. Sentimental items are usually more meaningful and are less likely to end up in the landfill.
  • Donating to a cause. Make a donation in your loved one’s name. If they love animals, donate to an organization like The Humane Society.  Find out what they are passionate about and donate to the cause.
  • Forego the batteries. Try and find alternatives to toys that require batteries. If you must buy batteries, opt for rechargeable ones.
  • Rethink the stocking stuffers. Tiny plastic items often used to fill stockings are usually cheap and easily broken. Consider baking cookies and giving those instead.
  • Avoid traditional gift wrap. If every American wrapped 3 presents in reusable wrapping, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Metallic and glossy wrapping paper is not recyclable. Some good alternatives are newspaper or butcher paper. You can purchase rolls of recycled paper at craft stores and decorate it how you like. Better yet, use reusable wrapping such as gift boxes or you could incorporate the wrapping as a part of the gift – for example, if you are giving someone gloves, you could wrap them in a matching scarf.
  • Donate. Instead of throwing away unwanted items, donate them to organizations such as the Goodwill or Deseret Industries.
  • Make your own cards. You could also consider buying cards that are made from recycled materials.

Decorating

  • Minimize. Less can be more. Consider cutting back on the decorations
  • Buy durable items. Buy decorations that will last for years.
  • Use fewer lights. A considerable amount of energy is used during the holidays to light up our homes. Consider using decorations that do not require being plugged in.  
  • Replace your lights. If your string of lights is older, consider replacing them with new LED string lights, and use a timer for your lights so they are not running nonstop.
  • Replace burnt out bulbs. Don’t throw away a perfectly good string of lights because of one bulb. Buy a replacement bulb instead.  
  • Decorate with nature. Use materials like wood, burlap, or pine cones. If you have a pine tree in your yard, you could use some small branches to make a wreath.
  • Real or Fake. Fake Christmas trees are more sustainable, only if you intend on using the tree for several years. If you have a real tree, properly dispose of it when the holiday is over (Note: that means cutting it up into several pieces that fit in your brown yard waste bin). You could also opt for a potted plant that can be planted in the yard in the spring, or become a lovely houseplant after the holiday is over.  

Other tips

  • Purchase sustainable, fair trade, items when possible. Use environmentally friendly materials such as organic cotton or hemp.
  • Support local business when possible.
  • Combine shopping trips to cut down on the emissions from your vehicle.
  • Take your reusable shopping bags with you. These bags can be used for more than just groceries.  Take them to your favorite stores!
  • Buy snacks and food in bulk for your holiday parties to reduce on packaging waste.
  • Carpool to holiday parties

Above all, the best way to have a greener season is to just slow down and connect. If you find yourself getting caught up in the chaos and pressure of shopping, just take a deep breath and remind yourself what this season is all about.

May your days be merry and bright, and happy holidays from SLCGreen!

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