Written by Debris Free Oceans Communications Intern, Julia Hoch from the University of Miami Ecosystem Science and Policy Program
According to the Clean Air Council, every day 43,000 tons of food are thrown out in the United States, and each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. The holidays are a time for family traditions and festive cheer but sadly, a lot of waste. Did you know that household waste increases by more than 25% from Thanksgiving to New Years Day? And in the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons? This holiday season make it your goal to give responsibly, save energy, and reduce waste!
1. Turn your Christmas tree into compost, mulch, or a wildlife habitat
If you have a chipper/shredder at home, feed individual branches into the chipper to produce a pine tree mulch that can be used in a vegetable or flower garden. Or add this mulch to your compost pile with some leftover food scraps to then add to your garden soil. Most cities have commercial composting facilities that will come pick up your tree and take care of the mulching and composting for you. You can also simply toss your tree in the backyard to create an ideal home for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks!
2. Make wrapping part of the gift
Wrap presents in wearable items such as a scarf or a reusable decorated box. Or wrap gifts in recycled paper, rather than shiny metallic rolls in local shops. Greenfieldpaper.com has fantastic green wrapping paper options!
3. Choose locally sourced, free-ranged meats to support a cleaner planet
Buying organic, local, sustainable foods are healthier but also reduce our carbon footprint.
4. Invest in LED holiday lights
They are more sustainable than regular incandescent bulbs, saving more than 95 percent of energy overtime. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year. Also go for mini lights instead of larger ones and try to turn them off once you go to bed.
5. Eco- donations
Make a donation to an environmental or animal charity as a family tradition or substitute as a gift!
6. Cut the Catalogs
According the carbonfund.org, the energy to produce, deliver and dispose of junk mail each year produces more gas emissions than 2.8 million cars. There are simple ways to cut back on that waste during the peak of mail season. Unsubscribe to holiday catalogs before the season and transition to online shopping.
7. Party without being trashy
Stay away from plastic silverware that will end up in a land fill. Biodegradable cutlery and plates are one alternative. Better yet: use cloth instead of paper napkins, borrow extra plates and silver wear from friends if you don't have enough, or even rent dinner wear
8. Recycle at your holiday party
Make it easy to recycle by having labeled bins at your party if there is going to be waste!
9. Go for natural holiday fragrances and decorations
Create seasonal scents by baking gingerbread cookies. Or make a fragrant holiday potpourri by simmering ingredients such as lemon or orange slices, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. Instead of buying new decorations, reuse vintage ornaments from your family attic or a thrift store. A fun activity for children could include making ornaments from homemade clay, scraps of fabric, old holiday cards, and nontoxic paints and glue.
10. Eco-friendly traveling
For those people visiting family out of town try to pick a direct flight. Planes expel more toxic chemicals during take-off and landing than while cruising. Rent a hybrid car for your stay to emit less carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases. Another quick way to save paper trash is to load your boarding pass on your smartphone and ticket electronically.