Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Eco-Friendly Gifts and Tips for the Holidays
The holiday season is upon us. As we get caught up in the shopping, the decorating, and the celebrations with family and friends, it's easy to forget all those things that make the holidays special have an impact on the environment. During the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, we consume more resources, burn more fossil fuels, and generate more waste than any other time of the year. Learn how to tread more lightly this holiday season. You don't have to sacrifice your favorite holiday traditions to have a green Christmas.
Start greening up your Christmas by rethinking your holiday gift giving. Who needs more plastic junk made in a sweatshop halfway around the world that will languish in the landfill forever once the recipient tires of it? Instead, give eco-friendly gifts that evoke the true spirit of the season.
Some of the best gifts aren't "stuff" at all; they're gifts of time or experiences. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, and plays make great gifts and offer a way to spend more time with your loved ones. Or give that frazzled person on your shopping list a chance to get away from it all with a certificate for a spa day or a weekend at a bed and breakfast.
Consider your own talents. If your cooking skills are the envy of your friends, give certificates for a home-cooked meal of the recipient's favorite dishes. If you're a meticulous housekeeper, give a certificate for a top-to-bottom housecleaning (using green cleaning products, of course). If you play a musical instrument, give lessons. If you're computer savvy, help someone set up a website or a blog.
Consider the recipient's interests. An outdoor enthusiast may appreciate an annual National Parks pass. Give a fitness buff a gym membership or time with a personal trainer. A photography class or museum pass may be a good gift for a creative type. A cook may enjoy a cooking class or a CSA membership.
Give locally made gifts. Not only will you minimize the impact to the environment by foregoing gifts that are transported thousands of miles from where they are produced, you'll support the local economy. Local artisan shops and craft fairs are a good source for unique gifts so you won't have to worry about duplicates.
Make your own gifts. Nothing is more special than a handmade gift created with the recipient in mind. Jewelry, scarves, and tote bags are all gifts that can be made with relative ease. If you're not at all crafty, a collage of framed photos or a personalized calendar make easy, yet thoughtful gifts. Gifts from the kitchen also are appreciated; a dried soup mix in a mason jar, a pretty jar of Herbes de Provence, or homemade chocolate truffles are some options.
Eco-Friendly Gifts for Everyone on your List
When shopping for gifts, look for items that are sustainably produced, made from eco-friendly or recycled materials, are non-toxic, and are recyclable. Avoid buying gifts that require batteries, as discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Look for durable items that won't wear out quickly and end up in the landfill before next Christmas rolls around.
Consider these eco-friendly gift ideas:
- Stainless steel water bottle: Promote good health and the reduction of plastic waste with this reusable water bottle free from harmful BPA.
- Bamboo kitchen utensils and cutting boards: Bamboo is a quick-growing grass and a sustainable alternative to slow-growing trees. It's stronger than wood and is naturally anti-microbial, making it a great material for kitchen use. The cooks on your list will love the durability, easy maintenance and attractive look of these kichen essentials.
- Fabric sandwich bags: These fun, reusable, machine-washable, and BPA-free alternatives to plastic sandwich bags make great stocking stuffers for all your green friends.
- Make up brush travel set: These brushes are made from recycled and sustainable materials. 1% of all sales go to environmental groups.
- Jade Encore yoga mat: Made with recycled rubber. Old Jade mats are recycled into new mats.
- Recycling truck: Your child will learn all about recycling while playing with this durable truck made from 100% recycled milk cartons.
More Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the volume of waste generated by American households increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That amounts to one million extra tons of garbage each year. Think about ways your family can minimize waste this holiday season.
Christmas trees: While you may think an artificial tree is the more sustainable choice, it actually isn't. Artificial trees are made from PVC, which is harmful to the environment. They typically are discarded after six years of use and are sent to the landfill where they last forever. This year, purchase a real tree from a tree farm. You won't contribute to deforestation because the farmer will plant new trees in its place. After Christmas, look for ways to recycle the tree instead of sending it to the landfill. Trees can be used for mulch or to provide winter habitat to backyard birds. Many communities offer tree recycling services and use the trees to mulch playgrounds and trails.
Christmas shopping: Plastic shopping bags end up discarded in landfills and tangled in trees, where they harm birds and wildlife. Take reusable cloth bags with you on your holiday shopping trips to minimize waste.
Gift wrap: Avoid shiny wrapping paper, which generally can't be recycled. Look for eco-friendly wrapping paper made from recycled materials. Create your own wrapping paper by repurposing old maps, calendars, newspapers, or magazines. Look for alternatives to wrapping paper like fabric gift bags or remnants that can be reused year after year. Save boxes, bows, and large pieces of wrapping paper to reuse next year. Recycle everything else.
Holiday lights: Switch to LED lights, which don't use as much electricity. Set the lights on a timer so they turn off when you go to bed and stay off during the day. This saves electricity and increases the life of your lights. Do some research to find out where you can recycle old Christmas lights in your area.
Christmas cards: Send electronic cards to save paper and fuel. If you send paper cards, make sure they're made from recycled materials. Recycle the cards you receive, including the envelopes they come in, or use them to make ornaments or gift tags.
Holiday parties and meals: There's no time like the holidays to break out the good china and table linens. Avoid using paper plates and napkins and disposable utensils, which end up in the landfill after a single use. Serve local, seasonal foods and send the leftovers home with your guests, not into the trash. Keep a recycling bin next to the trash so your guests have a convenient spot to discard their cans and bottles and other recyclables.
Recycle old electronics: When Santa brings you that new laptop, cell phone, or flat-screen TV you've been wanting, don't send the old one to a landfill. Donate it to charity if it still works or find out where you can recycle it in your area.