Friday, December 7, 2012

10 tips for a greener holiday season

Wondering how you can make your holiday season more sustainable this year?

Fortunately, the folks at Greenpeace have come up with a list of 10 things you can do to make your own holidays even more green this year.

 Read on

1. Less is More: Every item you give is manufactured, shipped, and packaged separately, and all that means more global warming pollution. Instead of buying the kids on your list lots of cheaper little gifts, consider giving one bigger, higher quality gift. And consider shopping on trading and recycling sites like Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org. Since kids often outgrow their toys quickly, these sites are a great way to find like new toys at little or no cost while doing good for the environment. For friends and relatives, give “experiences,” like gift certificates for restaurants, movies, and plays. You’ll spend the same amount of money (or less), and chances are your friends and family will be happier too.

2. Look for environment-friendly gifts: If nothing but a shiny new gift will do, here are some specific things to look for (and avoid) when picking out presents:

• Avoid products that are heavily packaged.
• Avoid products made from PVC or from tropical wood, such as mahogany.
• Look for appliances with the EPA’s Energy Star label and check Energy Guide yellow sticker for energy use rating, which are more energy efficient than conventional models.
• Before buying that laptop or video game, check out our latest Guide to Greener Electronics
• Replace the conventional alkaline batteries with Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries (not NiCd or Nickel Cadmium, which contain toxic cadmium) and include a battery charger with the gift.
3. Request ground shipping: Ground shipping is six times more efficient than overnight air shipping. It saves fuel and reduces global warming pollution. Do your online and catalog shopping early and you’ll be able to request ground shipment. Again, this is not only good for the environment but also the pocketbook.

4. Buy a Live, Potted Tree: You can plant your live tree outside after the holidays or donate it to a local school or park. Small, potted trees are a great option as they can be kept in their pot and used again next year. If you use a cut tree, go to Earth911.com to find a tree recycler nearby. You can even chip the tree yourself and use it to mulch your garden. If you do buy an artificial tree, make sure that it is not made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

5. Replace your old lights with LED bulbs: Holiday lights use a lot of energy, especially when left on around the clock. In fact, traditional holiday lights generate as much global warming pollution as about 250,000 cars annually, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. So, when you’re decking the halls, start by replacing your old lights with LED bulbs. They use a tenth of the energy of mini-bulbs and a hundredth of the energy of incandescent bulbs! After switching to LEDs, only use the lights when you are going to enjoy them—in the evening. Or try solar LEDs, which use no electricity at all!

6. Use natural and/or homemade decorations: Gingerbread cookies, popcorn strings, candy canes and cinnamon sticks are a great alternative to the store-bought variety and are a fun project for young children. There are tons of resources and how-tos for homemade and natural holiday decoration around the Internet, but two good ones are holidaycrafts4kids.com and www.hgtv.com (the website of the Home and Gardens channel).

7. Reduce use of paper and recycle: Send e-cards to friends, reuse last year’s wrapping paper, and write names directly on the wrapped gifts. Remember to save this year’s paper too! When entertaining, avoid using disposable cups, plates, utensils and napkins. If you do use disposables, always choose recycled paper products. And when it’s all over, be sure to recycle all those cans, bottles, and cardboard boxes.

8. Avoid paper invitations: Paper cards are nice, but a phone call is better. Or you can send email invites.

9. Make your holiday dinner a low-carbon feast: There are several steps you can take to cut the global warming impact of your holiday dinner. Consider these:

• Buy organic. Organic agriculture produces far less global warming pollution than conventional. Agriculture is responsible for 13.5% of global warming pollution worldwide.
• Buy locally grown produce and meats. Food travels an average of 1,500 miles or more by train or truck from the farm to the supermarket, causing a lot of pollution. Go to www.eatwellguide.org to find a list of local farmers near you.
• Go vegetarian for holiday dinner. Meat production generally results in much more global warming pollution than non-meat food. A great source of delicious recipes that even meat-eaters will love is the Moosewood Cookbook.
• Cook with in-season foods like winter squash and other seasonal produce. Again there are tons of recipes available on-line at places like http://www.foodnetwork.com/in-season-now/index.html.
10. Save energy and lower your heating bill: Here are some simple steps to reduce your energy usage and heating bills (you can find more at Greenpeace’s Green Tips for Every Day Living):

• Conserve fuel by turning down the heat at night and while you are away from home—or install a programmable thermostat.
• Insulate your home against heat loss and periodically check insulation.
• Fix air leakage with weather-stripping and caulking.
• In the winter, change your furnace air filters once a month. The heater uses more energy when it is full of dust.
• Insulate your electric hot water heater and pipes.

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