12 ways to green up your holiday season

holiday gifts
Getty Photo Credit: Getty

If you’re like many of us, you are now wading through Thanksgiving leftovers (and dishes), family, friends and Black Friday deals. With the unofficial kick-off of the holiday shopping season upon us, your shopping choices can spread not only a little holiday cheer but also help green the earth.

So, while you’re checking your naughty or nice lists, here are some ways you can leave less of a carbon footprint while celebrating the holidays.

Buy battery-free gifts
Even as battery recycling is up by 20 percent last year, for a total of 4,000 tons of collected batteries, we’ve got a long way to go before we’re throwing away less than recycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away more than three billion batteries each year. So, buy battery-free or include rechargeable batteries and a charger.

Buy locally or handmade
This is the perfect time to support small and independent businesses and antique shops with locally-made gifts that didn’t have to travel far, which will reduce greenhouse emissions.

Look for eco-friendly gifts
While you’re at it, see if you can find some eco-friendly gifts made from recycled materials or that are easily recycled, energy-efficient or are made of natural products.

Make your own gifts
This might be a bit more time-consuming or you might be like many of us who don’t have an artsy magic thumb, but if you are great at visual arts — baking, sewing or some other artistic flair — why not put your talents to use and create one-of-a-kind memories for your loved ones?

Give eco-friendly cards
While you’re at it, you can also reduce your carbon imprint by sending e-cards (with a little note saying you’re saving trees, of course). Or for the relative that might be appalled by that, you could also make your own cards or look for cards made from recycled materials and printed in non-toxic inks. You could also reuse the fronts of old cards as holiday postcards or gift tags.

Use less wrapping paper
We know there is something about shredding through neatly wrapped and bowed presents. But we’re sure your adult friends will understand if you use less wrapping paper and more creative wrappings like fabrics and (recyclable) gift bags that require less packaging, paper and waste.

Reuse old gift packaging
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health, if every U.S. household wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would
save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. You could reuse ribbons, bows, and bag and box stuffers from previous gifts or repurpose old candy tins and other boxes. Be sure to recycle anything that cannot be reused.

Holiday tree
FAO Schwartz Photo Credit: FAO Schwartz

To tree or not to tree
Some people will absolutely balk at the idea of not having a tree, so we’ll leave that debate to you and your family. But make sure to consider live versus artificial trees. There is a raging debate about which is better, but, in reality, it just depends on how you use them.

Live trees can be cut, composted and chipped for reuse, just make sure to remove all the tinsel and decorations from the tree. If you want to replant your tree, you must buy one with a healthy root ball. These aren’t cheap and are rather hard to come by.

Most plastic trees aren’t biodegradable or easily recyclable. If you plan on reusing your artificial tree, note that it could take five to 10 years of reuse before it will have less impact on the environment. But, if you’re not into reusing, you could also rent an artificial tree and return it after the holiday season.

Make your own holiday decorations
There are plenty of craft ideas and resources to make your own wreaths, ornaments and other holiday decorations with things already in your kitchen or house.

Use LED lights
For some, the holiday season means all-out decoration wars. Lower your light bill and reduce your imprint by using LED lights and, maybe, reduce the size of your outdoor displays.

If you’re traveling, be sure to turn off all lights and unplug appliances to save a few coins.

Cook more veggies
Healthy up your holiday meals with more plant-based (and locally grown) vegetables. They’re good for both your body and the environment. And, yes, sweet potatoes count!

Cook less food
Don’t fight us on this one. By now, you’ve come to know which dishes tend to not get eaten each year or go bad before you can finish them. With 30 to 50 percent of food getting wasted each year, why not cook less of those items and keep food waste down this year?

The holidays can be stressful by themselves, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything on this holiday green check-off list.

Doing just one or two things can make a world of difference in helping reduce your carbon imprint. So, pick the ones that stand out the most and get started on greening your holiday cheer.