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Green Thumbs Up: Tips on having a greener Christmas

The environmental impact of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is not generally something we think about while eating turkey, buying gifts and decorating our homes each year. But with more emphasis being placed on sustainable living and caring for the planet, we can do our part, even while celebrating the holiday.

The Independent says the amount of waste in the UK during the holiday season includes approximately one billion cards and 83 kilometers of wrapping paper, along with 125,000 tons of plastic packaging that comes with the gifts. From Thanksgiving to New Years Day in the U.S., the amount of food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons creates an added one million tons a week to our landfills.

In the U.S.  we generate millions of tons of additional waste during the holidays.

In the U.S., we generate millions of tons of additional waste during the holidays.

The amount of waste from all the trappings of the holiday season can be reduced if we stop for a moment and think of creative and sustainable ways to celebrate the season and at the same time, care for our environment. Let’s look at just a few simple “Green” ideas you can try.

Buy less and buy “smart”
Gifts to others show our thoughtfulness, and quite often, a gift is more meaningful when it is homemade and from the heart. Yes, it’s easy to run out and pick something up for someone, but is it meaningful? Children do favor the bright and shiny store-bought things, but adults appreciate a gift, no matter how small, that shows thoughtfulness.

A large number of our gifts, including clothing, come from halfway around the world. But buying “smart” means shopping for items locally-made. These products are made with care and often, there is a story behind them. You can also choose gifts made from recycled sources, another way to help the environment. Check out these recycled gifts.

Cut down on giving battery-operated toys this year.

Cut down on giving battery-operated toys this year.

Remove battery-operated toys from the Christmas list. Did you know that 40 percent of all batteries sales in the U.S. occur during the holiday season? Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard, and can be dangerous if swallowed or chewed on for very young children. Even buying one less battery-operated toy this season will help because that will be one less battery thrown out.

Gift wrap and Christmas cards
Wrapping paper and cards create a large part of the waste generated during the holidays, and that doesn’t include the plastic used in packaging. Get creative! Use wrapping paper made from recycled sources. Avoid buying glossy or metallic paper. These papers are difficult to recycle and have no value as a mulch.

Gifts wrapped using newspaper pages.

Gifts wrapped using newspaper pages.
Rey Suwito

Use tape sparingly. If using ribbon to wrap your gift, you might not need tape at all. This will also make it easier for the recipient to reuse the wrapping paper. Call me frugal, but I learned from my mother-in-law to save ribbons, bows and wrapping paper. And surprisingly, lots of people do this. Just teach the kids to not go ripping into their gifts. Check out these gift-wrapping alternatives.

These Christmas cards are all handmade.

These Christmas cards are all handmade.

Yes, some store-bought Christmas cards are very elegant, but homemade cards are more meaningful. All you need is some card stock, either pieces you have saved, or the backing to old calendars. Children’s hand-drawn pictures are always welcomed by grandparents. But get creative and let your artistic talents shine.

Next week, we will look at Christmas trees and decorations for the holiday season. We will also look at why a fresh-cut tree is more environmentally-friendly than an artificial tree.

Green Thumbs Up is a weekly feature that delves into ways that we can live more environmentally-friendly lives. You can read last week’s column HERE.

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Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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