It’s the season of overabundance and generosity. As such, many people find themselves both spending and consuming a great deal. When this happens, there’s a huge negative impact on the planet as a result. It’s ironic that during a time of year when we’re supposed to be the most hopeful, we’re also the most wasteful. Luckily, there are some ways to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible.
The Season of Lights (and Energy Usage)
- Don’t “Griswold” it: Don’t play the old “keeping up with the Joneses” game of trying to have the most well-lit house on the block. Excessive outdoor lights can both look ridiculous and draw huge amounts of energy. Sometimes, creativity is more jaw-dropping and inspiring than excess. Instead of going big, go better and come up with some new and cool ways to arrange your lights. For instance, instead of wrapping lights around your house, wrap them around a tree. Use an LED spotlight to light up your house so you don’t need to put as many bulbs up. Find a focal point, like your entryway, and concentrate on that. I’ve always believed that less is more.
- Put your lights on a timer: If you’re like me, you’re constantly forgetting to turn off your outside lights. Get a timer and get rid of excessive energy waste.
- Or just use the power of the sun: They make solar-powered lights now. How cool is that?
- Stop unnecessarily lighting your living room: Most people worry about outdoor lights, but you can use a lot of energy with indoor lights as well. This is the darkest time of year, so during dusk hours (which start ridiculously early at four in the afternoon now), use candles or your fireplace to give your living spaces a glowing ambiance.
- Use fewer string lights on your tree: The things mentioned about outside lights go for inside holiday lights as well: Don’t go overboard, and also don’t forget to turn them off with the help of a timer.
- Take charge of your thermostat: Use less energy by keeping your heat at a low-but-livable temperature. When guests come over, make sure they have blankets, and don’t let random family members mess with the heat. Remember that your house will get warmer when you start baking!
A Local Holiday Meal
- Host a cookie swap: This season is all about excess not only with the lights but the food. Rather than having dozens and dozens of cookies just for your and your family, get a sampling of many different types of cookies during a cookie swap. That way, you won’t waste food and energy producing a huge amount of cookies that won’t get eaten.
- Consider a new protein: Sure, roast beef might be a traditional option, but is it good for the planet? It’s a bit hard to say, but probably not. Poultry can be better for the environment, but the great machine that is poultry production isn’t helping anyone. In my personal opinion, it’s better to try something that’s local to America, like bison instead of beef and turkey instead of chicken.
- Buy local veggies: You’d be surprised how many foods can be produced locally at this time of year. You’d also be surprised at how ridiculous the emissions are as a result of moving your favorite produce from a distant farm to the grocery store. Find out what’s seasonal and close to you and work with that.
Celebrate With Care
- Use a real tree: This seems really counterintuitive at first: Why cut down a lovely, real tree when a fake one will last for years? Well, those real trees come from tree farms, which are not as bad for the environment as you may think, and fake trees are made from petroleum products. When real trees are discarded, they decay. When fake trees are discarded, they don’t. There is a third option, though: Buy a live tree and re-pot it for several years of continued use.
- Be home for Christmas, but don’t travel unnecessarily: You don’t have to drive or fly everywhere; be smart when you’re visiting family and friends. This travel season pumps a huge amount of emissions into the atmosphere. Carpool with other people if you’re traveling by car, or fly coach if that’s an option.
Smarter Gifts and Wrappings
- Use unusual wrapping paper: Wrapping paper is inherently very wasteful. You can get around both spending money on and encouraging the production of wrapping paper by coming up with cute alternatives: comics sections of newspapers, old maps, last year’s wrapping paper, fabric, or old calendars.
- Forgo wrapping paper altogether if you can: I love getting mason jar gifts because you get a gift and also the awesome jar that can be used for pretty much anything. Or you can give your gift in a basket or tin. You might also wrap something in another gift. For instance, you could wrap a DVD or Blu-Ray disc in a scarf and tie it with string.
- Wrap with eco-friendly string: I’ve been wrapping my presents with hemp string. They look really nice so far, and I didn’t have to use up rolls and rolls of tape.
For When it’s Over
- Save paper, bows, and ribbons: Why buy something again and again year after year? Save your ribbons, bows, and decorative items. This is both frugal and eco-friendly, and no one will ever know.
- Recycle old electronics: When you buy new stuff, you sometimes throw out old stuff. If that stuff includes cameras, cell phones, tablets, or other electronics, make sure you recycle them rather than just throwing them away. This can have a huge impact on the environment.
- Use green cleaning supplies: Find greener alternatives to harmful chemical cleaning products as you’re cleaning up post-party. Common household items like vinegar, baking soda, liquid dish soap, and lemon juice, in the right combinations, can clean just about anything.
- Dispose of your dead Christmas tree wisely: Your tree can be very useful as wood chips or mulch for landscaping. Some recycling yards will take them as well.
- Create decorations out of old cards: Rather than throwing out old cards, create a beautiful work of art with the kids instead.
So yes, you can get away with having a green Christmas without overabundance without having to be a Grinch! This year, make smart choices to help our planet (and your wallet).