Words: Monique Webb, EnviroPerks
The holiday season: a time for fun, family, and giving. There is a certain comforting, nostalgic air about it. With caroling, presents, and family around, what could be wrong? Well, for the environment, a lot. The end of the year is probably the hardest time for the planet; with increased paper usage, trees being cut down, the throwing out of old, now replaced, commercial goods, and the albeit pretty lights adorning everyone’s house. Not to mention all the gas burned to transport all of the holiday cheer. Does it have to be this way? With your help we can minimize the damage the holiday season does to our Earth, and it will put some change in your pocket at the same time.
The majority of damage done to the planet during the gift-giving season is a direct result of gift-giving. Annually in America, the wrapping of consumer products for the holidays is responsible for roughly half of all paper consumer products. In fact, wrapping paper and shopping bags are responsible for 4 million tons of trash annually, and 2.65 billion Christmas cards are sold. This number can be significantly reduced by using environmentally safe wrapping papers, such as those made from fibers like hemp. You can also reuse gift wrap from larger items for smaller items. Or, you can not use wrapping paper at all.Instead use newspapers, old maps, posters, and the like. Homemade cards are a cheap, environmentally friendly, and sentimental alternative to store-bought cards, and cards sent electronically produce no waste.
In reference to the carbon footprint left during the holidays, you can cut down on the power used by limiting light displays or not putting them on at all. If you’re rather fond of lighting up your house to cheer up the neighbors, LED lights are an exceptional alternative to normal display lights. LEDs use 95% less power than standard bulbs which translates to less impact on the Earth and less impact on your wallet. However, even if you insist on using a large amount of normal lights, you can at least agree that running them while asleep is pointless. Please turn off your holiday lights before going to bed.
On the subject of decoration: trees are a popular household display during the most wonderful time of the year. Live trees are your best option. While some may argue that plastic trees are re-useable and do not require any live trees to be cut down, research shows that these are often discarded. Reuse makes them less attractive, and due to their composition, these artificial trees can take up to 1700 years to biodegrade. Live potted trees can last for around two to three years in a pot before they need to be transferred to a larger container, where it can last for several more years. If it is not possible for you to keep a tree in the house year-round, you should find a tree drop-off in your area, as Christmas trees are great for mulch and other woodchip products.