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How to Have a Sustainable Holiday Season

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

By Mary Grlic

Image via IGS Energy

As the holiday season approaches and we begin to enjoy the festivities of dinners with loved ones—gift-giving, tree lighting, and more—we must keep in mind the impact of our actions. The holidays can have a toll on the environment, from traveling to increased garbage. According to the Clean Air Partnership, household waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Added food waste, shopping bags, wrapping paper, boxes, and packaging contribute to the nearly 1 million additional tons of trash entering landfills each week.

Standard outdoor holiday lights may be festive, but according to Azo Clean Teach, they also produce enough carbon dioxide to fill 15,500 hot air balloons. The US Department of Energy says that holiday lighting consumes more than six terawatts (TW). A great alternative is using LED lights which require 90% less energy than classic Christmas bulbs. LED lights are safe, energy-efficient, inexpensive, and durable. Many lights on the market also have timers so that the lights are not on all night, which is a great way to save energy while still keeping up some festive decorations!

After opening presents, you probably find yourself surrounded by piles of wrapping paper. Three trash bags later, your room is finally cleaned, but you have a ton of paper waste you need to discard. Wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and gift boxes are just a few of the paper packaging products that accumulate into lots of garbage. According to CBC, we cannot recycle gift wrap so it will end up in a landfill. The seemingly fun and fancy glitter paper is nothing but microplastics can be harmful to animals like birds. Try using a more sustainable, recyclable alternative to wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons. Newspaper or recyclable brown paper with string are great eco-friendly substitutes. Mason jars and shoeboxes can be repurposed and given a second life as packaging for your gift as well. If you are using a bag, check the label to see if it is biodegradable.

Instead of driving around and emitting greenhouse gases, carpool with a friend, shop close to your home or surrounding area, or online shop. Consider purchasing an eco-friendly gift, such as sustainable fashion or fair-trade makeup and skincare items. When buying food and spices, look for local options that contribute to less food waste in distribution. If your family is joining you for the holidays, try to limit food waste by sharing with loved ones who will eat leftovers, donating items to a local shelter, or composting food. Have eco-friendly get-togethers by opting for reusable dishes instead of disposable plastic items.

As we celebrate the holidays, we should be aware of how our actions hurt the environment. Let’s start some sustainable traditions by decorating with LED lights, using eco-friendly wrapping paper alternatives, and limiting food waste. Even small changes can help reduce the detrimental impacts of the holidays.

Written by Writer Mary Grlic

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