How to Be More Eco-Friendly This Holiday Season
While the holidays can be wonderful in many ways, they aren’t particularly kind to the environment. But by following these eco-friendly tips, you can change that. Think of it as your present to the earth!
Share holiday cards online
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Going digital is the way to go if you want to shrink your carbon footprint. “For example, rather than printing out dozens of holiday cards to send to family and friends, go paperless this year,” suggests Michael Sidejas, the Director of Product Management at Fujitsu. “Simply scan the photo(s) to the Cloud. You’re now free to send them along to loved ones with the same effect as a card and envelope—but [it’s] much more eco-friendly.” Still on the fence? Here are 40 facts that will make you use less paper.
Upcycle glass jars
Little glass jars can be used for a variety of things for the holiday season. “Glass jars are the perfect containers for jams and dips on a host’s charcuterie board, or [they can be] used to make votives to hold tea candles for a lovely bit of ambience,” says Steven Ioannou, cofounder of Nounós Creamery. “Alternatively, glass jars make for an inventive way to gift the plant lover in your life by turning them into the new home for a succulent family or herb garden.” If you’re looking for more gift-giving inspiration, don’t miss these 26 handmade gifts for everyone on your list.
Create your own Christmas tree with recyclable items
“Skip the Christmas tree this year, and make your own out of plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, yogurt containers, or other products that can be repurposed,” says Felipe Rivera, Events and Festivals Art Director at SeaWorld Orlando. Despite having the resources to buy art supplies, he challenged himself to create a Christmas tree for the park last year with 10,000 plastic bottles collected by employees. In three months, he built a 10-foot tree—truly illuminating the concept of recycle, reuse, and repurpose. The tree was so beloved that this year’s will double in size at 20 feet and use 35,000 bottles! Another reason to skip the traditional tree? Driving with a Christmas tree on top of your car affects your gas mileage more than you realize.
Use more diverse and sustainable grains in holiday meals
Diverse and sustainable. Those are two words you’re going to hear a lot more in the coming years in reference to food. Why? “We are facing the risk of a world nutrition and hunger crisis, especially in light of climate change,” says chef Erik Oberholtzer, founder of Tender Greens. “Food Forever suggests using more diverse and sustainable crops in holiday meals.” In doing that, you can still follow your favorite food traditions. The only difference is that your delicious meals will incorporate some lesser-known ingredients. “Imagine amaranth stuffing instead of cornbread. Or fonio pilaf instead of rice,” says Oberholtzer. “I love crispy breadfruit fries to replace the common potato chip we reach for before the football game. And follow the holiday meal overload with an energy-boosting moringa latte.”
Rent toys through a subscription service
This is a staggering statistic: On average, 68 percent of toys are abandoned a short time after Christmas, says ToyLibrary founder Christie Jacobs. In addition, nearly a quarter of parents throw away old toys once their kids lose interest after a few months. “This puts toys in landfills, which further aids in our sustainability issues,” explains Jacobs. “A way to be eco-friendly and share gifts that keep on giving is to rent toys through subscription services. If you are renting toys, you save on plastic, packaging, the emissions created from the delivery of toys to the stores, etc.” Or you could go a completely different route and opt for these gifts kids will love that aren’t toys.
Create your own fizzy drinks
Ditch the single-use plastic. The holidays are a time to celebrate and bring joy to the world, not more plastic. “One way to easily cut back on the amount of single-use plastic waste generated is opting to create your own festive, fizzy drinks for family and friends this season instead of drinking from single-use plastic bottles and cans,” according to Sodastream. “To have an even more sustainable holiday season, serve those drinks in reusable cups or water bottles.” For drinks the whole family will love, try these festive and delicious holiday mocktails that contain zero alcohol.
Be smart about your fireplace
Nothing beats the coziness and warmth of a fireplace during the holidays, but your favorite festive respite may be causing some unintentional problems. In fact, says Mock, it can destroy your home’s indoor air quality by releasing dangerous pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. But a few precautions can protect indoor air quality. “Choose the proper fuel,” she says, for starters. “Ensure a hotter, cleaner-burning fire by using dried ‘seasoned’ wood, particularly hard woods (maple, ash, oak, beech), which outperform softer pine and fir. Never burn wet, painted, or treated wood. Also, don’t neglect routine maintenance. The routine annual cleaning and inspection of your fireplace and venting system are essential to protecting air quality.” Here are some more surprising ways to cut down indoor air pollution.
Make a New Year’s resolution to wash in cold water
It might amaze you to know that about 80 percent of the energy to do a load of laundry comes from heating the wash water. You can significantly reduce your personal carbon footprint and save money by switching to cold-water washing. “Switching to washing in cold water for one year can save enough energy to drive 300 miles or charge your cell phone for life!” says Laura Goodman, a fabric-care expert for P&G. “And if every household in the country washed in cold water, it would save enough energy to power 3.5 million homes and would be similar to taking 4.4 million cars off the road for a year.” These other shocking statistics about the environment will remind you just how important it is to protect the planet by doing your part.