Keep it Green This Holiday Season

December 5, 2008, 2:02 pm

The holidays are traditionally a season of consumption, and whether we’re feasting on a tasty holiday meal, nabbing some great online deals, or sneaking “just one more” sweet treat, it’s all done in the spirit of celebrating the holiday season. But with so many snacks to be had and decorations to be hung, we should try to focus on keeping our holiday celebrations as earth-friendly as possible. Check out the list below for some quick tips for adding a little sustainability to your festivities.

Pre-holiday shopping:

- Buy locally. You can do this by shopping at farmers’ markets or choosing food at the grocery store that comes from nearby farms. Find farmers’ markets near you at localharvest.org.

- Plan a seasonal holiday menu. For a list of what’s in season in your area, check out fieldtoplate.com.

- Combine shopping trips. Whenever you can, try to get multiple tasks accomplished in one trip. Pick up some groceries on the way home from the mall so you won’t have to make another trip later.

- Place your online gift orders in time to choose ground shipping. It will likely take less fuel to transport your gift, and you’ll save money too!

- Send e-cards. Reduce your carbon footprint by sending personalized e-cards instead of paper ones. You can add family photos to Hallmark templates for free at www.hallmark.com. The company Care2 will make a donation to the Nature Conservancy to protect one square foot of rainforest for each free e-card you send. Learn more at care2.com.

Holiday decorations:

- Swap out your old incandescent bulbs for LEDs! The new LED holiday lights last longer, run cooler and are up to 90 percent more efficient.

- Be smart about holiday lights. Hook your holiday lights up to a timer. Instead of leaving them on until you go to bed, use a timer that will automatically switch them off at a pre-set time. You can also unplug them overnight and when you leave the house to save energy.

- Invest in reusable tableware. In addition to avoiding paper plates and plastic silverware, pick out a set of cloth napkins that you can reuse year after year.

Gift-giving:

- Think outside of the box. Instead of wrapping paper, repurpose an old newspaper, paper bags or unused wallpaper to wrap gifts for friends and family. At American Park Network, we love using the colorful comics section. For a more elegant look, wrap the gift using the underside of a brown paper bag and decorate with a sprig of pine or holly.

 - Reuse holiday trimmings. If you have gifts that simply can’t be wrapped neatly, think about reusing holiday gift bags from last year, or start saving bags that are in good condition for use next year. Also try placing unwrapped gifts in reusable cloth bags.

 - Give homemade gifts. Not only are you reusing common household items, you’re also saving money and cutting down your carbon footprint. For homemade gift ideas and instructions, visit reuseit.com.

- If you give a battery-operated gift, include rechargeable batteries. This helps reduce waste.

- Give gifts that are sustainable or reduce energy use. Check out our 2008 green gift guide for some great ideas!