Tips for a "Green" Holiday Season
While the winter holiday season brings good cheer to many people, it also brings a lot more solid
waste to the landfill, impacts to our environment, additional consumption of natural resources, and
additional debt to the average American family. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, here are
some environmentally-smart tips and web site links for a less wasteful - and perhaps less stressful
- holiday this year.
Every year, there are 2.65 billion holiday cards sold in the U.S. That's enough to fill a
football stadium field 10 stories high!
- Wrapping paper is often used once and thrown away.
- Try using colorful pages torn from magazines
to wrap small gifts, and old maps or the Sunday comics for larger boxes.
- Avoid using paper entirely by using reusable decorative tins, baskets or boxes.
- If you do buy wrapping papers, look for ones made of recycled paper.
- Reusable cloth ribbons can be used in place of plastic bows.
- Finally, unwrap gifts carefully and save wrappings for reuse next year.
- Seasonal LED's (light emitting diodes)
Seasonal LED strings are now commonly available for sale through many retailers.
These energy-efficient light strings are superior to standard incandescent light strings in that they:
- use up to 95% less energy.
- last up to 7 times longer.
- are more durable, with no filaments or glass bulbs
- produce very little heat, reducing the risk of fire.
- The energy cost of operating one of these strings is a fraction of the cost of conventional
Instead of material gifts, consider gifts of your time or expertise. For example, offer to do
chores, babysitting, snow shoveling, etc. Or, offer to teach someone your expertise: how to bake,
knit, repair things, etc.
If you buy gifts, look for durable and re-usable items and resist the latest "fad" at the
shopping mall. Think of how many pet rocks, mood rings, and cabbage patch dolls ended up in the
Look for gifts with an environmental message: a nature book, a refillable thermos bottle, a
canvas tote bag, a battery recharger or items made from recycled materials. Choose solar powered
instead of battery powered products. Or better yet, ones that require no power at all.
Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. That's
an additional 5 million tons of garbage!
- Other environmentally-smart gifts include homemade ones: homebaked cookies, bread or jams, a
plant or tree.
- Gifts that don't create any waste: concert or movie tickets, dinner at a restaurant, or an IOU to help shovel snow or repair a leaky faucet.
- Gifts that get "used up": candles, soap, or seeds for next year's garden.
- If you go out shopping, bring your own tote bags and avoid coming home with an armload of
plastic bags holding just one item.
- You may be receiving piles of mail order catalogs at this time of year. Call the company's
800 number and ask that you be removed from their mailing list. Or, opt out of unwanted catalogs, now or after the
Holidays at Catalog Choice.
or Pre Quo. These easy to use on line services gives
you a secure way to opt out from one location. Fortunately, magazines and catalogs
can be recycled at local recycling centers.
It takes an average of 6 months for a credit card user to pay off their holiday debt.
- If you send holiday cards, look for ones made of recycled paper or recycled cards (see the link to St. Judes' Ranch for Children, below). Avoid cards with glossy, shiny
or gold foil coatings since these cannot be recycled. Save the cards that you get in the mail, cut
off the front pictures, and reuse as "postcards" next year. This saves on postage too. Or, send
electronic cards or make a phone call instead! R.O.C.K.S. will collect used holiday greeting cards and use
them for projects. Send to MS 2502.
- For tree trimmings, try edible or compostable items like popcorn or cranberries on a string,
gingerbread cookies or items made from "found" objects around your home. New LED lights use much less energy, check out the Holiday Lighting web site listed below.
- If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough
paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
Some web sites to LEARN MORE... about reducing waste and the environmental
impacts of the holiday season.
Holiday Lighting News and Resources
Ways to Decrease the Environmental Stress of the Holiday Season from Vermont ANR
The Center for a New American Dream
US Postal Service and Earth 911
Buy Nothing Day from Ad Busters.org
42 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Waste
Earth 911 Holiday Recycling and Tips
Alternative Gifts International
Energy Related Gift Ideas
Holiday Waste Reduction Tips
Green Gift Guide
St. Jude's Ranch for Children
No Waste Holiday Ideas from Greening Schools
Recycle Now - Waste Reduction for the Holidays
Holiday Worms poem
The Story of Stuff
National Christmas Tree Association
Escape from Affluenza
Earth Saving Tips from Earth Share
Good Stuff? A Behind-the-Scenes Guide to the Things We Buy
Green America National Green Pages (formerly Co-Op America)
Tips for a Green Holiday Season from the Medical University of South Carolina
With careful thought, it is possible to reduce waste, conserve resources and promote
environmental protection during this busy season.
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something
he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps
means a little bit more!" - "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss
Thanks go to members of CURC, the College and University Recycling Council, for much of this web page content.