Opinion

White Christmas? What About Green Christmas?

As the season of gift-giving and house-decorating approaches, it is easy to be overzealous—overzealous with your spending, your décor (yes, your house can be too decorated) and your waste. According to the Stanford Recycling database, Americans throw away 25% more waste from Thanksgiving to the New Year’s holiday period than any other time of the year—25 million tons of it! Let’s increase the holiday cheer and decrease the holiday waste. Here is a list of three holiday tips to decrease your waste:

1) Change the way you wrap!

It is tempting to use the new sparkly wrapping paper, bows, and ribbon for all of your gift-giving purposes, but did you know wrapping at least three gifts in re-used materials would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields (Stanford Recycling)? Hear me out: I’m not recommending that you save wrapping paper year to year, but if you receive gift bags or boxes, save those for next year’s gift wrapping!

Another way to switch out the way you wrap is to use reusable bags, maps, kraft paper, newspapers, or wrapping paper made from recycled paper as wrapping paper. Kraft paper and newspaper can be composted or recycled, which makes them a sustainable alternative to the laminated wrapping paper that cannot be recycled or composted.

2) Change the way you gift!

Remember that a gift does not have to be tangible. A gift can be an experience with someone that you love, such as a trip to a museum, a gift card to a local coffee shop, a ticket to a concert or play or a membership to a gym or spa. However, when giving tangible gift, you can remain mindful of the environment. You can reduce waste by giving tangible gifts that the recipient actually needs, shopping local for the gift, making a homemade gift, buying pre-loved, re-gifting or looking for gifts that are made from recycled materials.

3) Change the way you decorate!

Changing the way that you decorate is more than the “real tree” or “fake tree” debate, because both can be misused. If you buy a real tree each Christmas but fail to compost it, then you could be doing more damage than you think. Real trees are also less cost-effective in the long run. You can purchase a real potted tree, which would allow you to plant it after the festivities are over. When buying a real tree, it is important to buy local from local tree farms. However, you can save money by buying an artificial tree, but you have to take care of the tree by storing it properly and using it for years. Artificial trees can be seen as safer because they don’t pose a fire hazard. Either decision you choose to make can be eco-friendly if you steward it well. 

Décor is also more than just the tree. Many families buy new décor each year and toss the old, but that only creates more holiday waste. If you are on a budget or are looking to ditch last year’s décor, I have some suggestions for you. You can make your own ornaments out of salt dough and then paint them, you can dry oranges and grapefruit to string around your tree, you can string popcorn and cranberries, you can search your local thrift store for used décor and lights or you could ask for some of your childhood ornaments to spruce up the tree. If you are looking to ditch last year’s décor, then you can drop décor off at thrift stores, ask your church if they need any decorations or put your used decorations in a garage sale.

I hope that you are able to use these tips as you give gifts and decorate for the holidays this Christmas season. Finally, remember to turn off holiday lights before going to bed!