How to make the holiday season sustainable
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14 Ways To Make This Holiday Season a Little Greener

Make your own greeting cards with reused folders, calendars, and colored paper

Christmas tree and gifts

The holiday season is a time of giving and being grateful for what you have. While the holiday season can be notorious for generating a tremendous amount of solid waste and carbon emissions, we can take simple steps to mitigate our environmental footprint during this glorious time of the year. Part of giving back can also mean giving back to the planet.

1. Try wrapping gifts with newspaper, unwanted posters, and catalogs

Every year in Americans consume enough gift wrap to cover 45,000 hockey rinks. If you really need to use gift wrap, avoid the metallic, glittery and glossy kind-they are not recyclable.

2. Make your own greeting cards with reused folders, calendars, and colored paper

Hand-made cards are more meaningful and sincere to the people than the mass-produced cards from Hallmark or Walmart. Home-made cards are also more likely to be kept. Store-bought cards are more often tossed within a week of being received. Send e-cards or e-invitations when possible.

3. Trade decorations with friends or shop for them at a thrift store

If you want to buy more decorations, try shopping for them at a thrift store. Most artificial decor contains plastic, composite and metal, which are nonrenewable. You could also trade decor with family or friends when you get tired of them and want something different.

4. Make your own bows with strips of paper

Bows and ribbons are not recyclable as they are composed of composite plastic and fiber. Annually Americans discard 38,000 miles of ribbon, enough to wrap around the Earth 1.5 times. Recycled paper bows can be just are pretty and colorful and are easy to make.

5. Reduce food waste with a food estimator

Wasting food also wastes land, labor, fuel, and packaging while adding to landfills. According to the EPA's, 15.1% of all municipal solid waste is made of food. About 21% of all food that Americans buy is thrown away. You can reduce food waste by serving food in smaller portions, storing food correctly and using an ingredient calculator. Check out:

6. Check with Seafood Watch or Seafood Selector

If you plan on incorporating seafood into your meal, Seafood Watch and Seafood Selector will help you find healthy and sustainable fish and shellfish choices. Eating sustainable seafood means that you will ensure that healthy marine ecosystems are well maintained and delicious seafood does not disappear from our menus.

7. Choose a living Christmas tree

While artificial trees can be reused indefinitely, most are typically discarded after a few repeated uses make them less attractive. Artificial trees are made up of PVC and metal components, which are not degradable. Living-trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource that is grown on Christmas tree farms and can be composted or turned into mulch when finished.

8. Decorate with LED light strings

LEDs last at least 10,000 hours and use 10 times less energy than mini bulbs and 100 times less energy than traditional holiday bulbs. LED light strings also allow you to connect more strands of lights together without creating an electrical hazard. Some LED light strings can also be programmed to change colors. Your old and broken light strings can be recycled at some Home Depot stores or through Christmas Light Source .

9. Connect decorative lights to an outdoor timer

Timers saves energy and the hassle of having to manually unplug lights before going to bed by automatically shutting off the power supply of an outlet. Lights should be turned off after midnight.

10. When possible, use silverware, and ceramics

For a gathering of fewer than ten people, it is more cost effective to use ceramics tableware and silverware as opposed to disposable ones since dishwashers can usually handle the load. Disposable utensils and tableware tend to come in large quantities.

11. Use rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries have better long-term performance, reduces need to buy new batteries (saves up to 1500 disposable batteries), and can be recycled through Home Depot, Staples, and Best Buy. Basically, anything that does not need to be continuously running(ie clock, smoke detector & thermostat) can work well with rechargeable batteries.

Universal Charger D Batteries 9V Batteries AAA Batteries AA Batteries

12. Recycle Right

Recycle all boxes(empty and flatten), clean paper bags, catalogs, mailers, newspaper, cards and gift wrap that is not glittery or foil-lined as well as empty cans, cartons, bottles, jugs, and jars(scrape clean). Do not bag your recyclables! Keep ribbons, wires, wrappers, air cushions/bubble wrap/plastic bags, foam, shipping envelopes, utensils, and food/liquid contaminated paper(ie cups, plates and napkins) out of the recycling bin.

Check out Recycling Simplified for more info.

13. Purchase a refurbished or pre-owned electronic device

Electronics often contain conflict minerals such as gold and Col-Tan. By purchasing a pre-owned or refurbished device, you are helping to close the recycling and trade in loops while reducing the demand for virgin materials that are often mined in developing nations with little to no environmental and safety regulations.

13. Take the train or Bus when traveling to your next holiday destination

Taking the train or bus allows for more efficient transportation with fewer cars on the road and fewer carbon emissions per person.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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