Tips for a Greener Holiday

It’s that time of year:  The streets are decorated, the malls are full of shoppers seeking that perfect gift, and the family is together.  With all of the shopping, decorating, and family time, it’s easy to forget about the environmental effects of the season.  The holidays command much more of our natural resources than most people realize.  Luckily, there are a few things you can do to have an environmentally ‘green’ Christmas (and save yourself a few bucks).

Christmas lights are a huge part of the holiday season.  With the competition for the best display in the neighborhood, the showcasing of your business, or just the halls of your own home – it’s no surprise that energy bills increase.  Sometimes decorating less just isn’t in the cards, but there have been some great steps forward in energy efficient decorating.  LED Christmas lights can decrease energy use without making you sacrifice your display.  Various decorative elements are available with LED lights, such as: netting for bushes, deer for the yard, a Santa for the roof, nativity scenes, snowflakes, American flags, snowmen, and many more.  These bulbs use 80 to 90% less energy than traditional Christmas bulbs, demanding wattage 10 times less that that of traditional mini bulbs, and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30-day period lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00, while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19.  The benefits of LED Christmas lights doesn’t stop there, these bulbs last around 100,000 hours longer than traditional lights—meaning they can last up to 40 years, if taken care of correctly. Investing in just one LED lighting decoration a year is worthwhile.

An artificial tree versus a real Christmas tree has been a long debated issue of sustainability.  While it may seem that artificial trees are the more sustainable option since they are reused each year, real trees are actually the most sustainable option. Real trees can be replanted in your yard, donated to a park to be replanted after use, or chipped and mulched for your shrub beds or rain garden.  Each year an acre of Douglas fir trees can absorb 11,308.7 pounds of carbon dioxide and provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.  To put that into perspective, there are 500,000 acres of Christmas tree production in the U.S. alone.  Real trees are also 100% recyclable and biodegradable, whereas artificial trees are neither recyclable nor biodegradable.  When an artificial tree is replaced, it heads to a landfill where it leaches lead mercury, and other harmful toxins.  It may seem that artificial trees aren’t replaced that often, but every time a new convenience is added to artificial trees (such as collapsible trees, and then pre-lit trees) it’s off to the landfill with thousands of artificial trees.

Another aspect of the holiday season that has a huge environmental impact is gift-wrapping. Half of the paper the United States consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. Annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons in the U.S. alone.  For a wrapping that is immediately disposed of, this is utilizing a huge amount of natural resources.  If every person in the country wrapped just three gifts with sustainable material enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 football fields.  Sustainable material includes: reuse of a gift bag or tissue paper that was gifted to you, fabric gift bags, comic strip, newspaper wrapping, old calendars, and posters

Creating a ‘green’ Christmas does not have to be a hardship on your family. In fact, having a ‘green’ Christmas can save your family money!  It doesn’t take much to have sustainable habits during the holiday season, but if everyone changed just a little bit we could provide a huge change overall!

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