2011-12-22 / Local & State

Put Some ‘Green’ In Holiday Plans

With the holiday season on the horizon, many people’s thoughts turn to charitable giving and other altruistic efforts. Amid giving a helping hand to those who need it and donating to worthy charities, individuals can think about giving back to the planet as well.

The Clean Air Council estimates that an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays in the U.S., and 4 million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags. Incandescent twinkle bulbs consume considerable power, especially when every house in the neighborhood is lit up. Extra food is often purchased to make holiday meals lavish, and plastic or disposable dishes and utensils is commonly chosen for convenience. All of this adds up to considerable excess.

There are several ways to reduce the impact the holidays have on the environment. Making smart choices and being conscious of when you could be adopting the “bigger is better” philosophy could help.

Switch holiday lights to LED ones. LEDs use 80 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Plus they are supposed to last longer before burnout. Although their initial cost is higher than standard bulbs, energy savings and longer lifespan mitigate these initial costs.

Place lights on a timer so that the light display turns off overnight. If you don't have a timer, simply turn the lights off when going to bed.

Buy items with less packaging to reduce waste. If you plan to purchase the same items as other friends and family (i.e. adhesive tape or tissue paper), think about buying one bulk package and splitting the contents.

Reduce reliance on wrapping paper. Many people now forgo wrapping paper for gift bags because they are easily portable and can be used over and over. If you select wrapping paper, choose types that can be recycled and papers that are already made of recycled materials. You can also use unique materials for wrapping items, such as cloth with ribbon or handkerchiefs.

Trim the tree with handmade items. Stringing popcorn and berries to make a homemade garland is a much greener option than plastic tinsel. Use pine cones collected at the end of autumn and decorate with acrylic paints and hang with ribbon. To add to a Christmas decoration collection, shop at thrift stores or tag sales to find gently used decorations that are new to you.

For those who want a real Christmas tree this year, buy one with the root ball intact. Then plant the pine tree in the yard after the holidays are over.

Choose locally grown or organic food for holiday feasts. These foods might be more fresh, and you will know they were raised in a way that doesn't compromise the environment.

Limit gifts that require batteries. Batteries routinely end up in landfills and damage the environment when they are carelessly discarded. Select toys and gadgets that use rechargeable batteries or ones that can be easily recycled later on.

Reduce reliance on disposable entertaining items. Skip the plastic cups and paper napkins. While it may take a little extra effort to clean up, using china dishes and stainless flatware reduces waste that ends up in the garbage. Plus, all of those plastic and paper products that will end up in the trash require energy and resources to make.

This holiday season, when the spirit of giving reigns supreme, don't forget to give back to the planet as well.

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