The holiday season is in full swing, but are the terms “green” and “holiday” incompatible? Not at all! Here are a few of our favorite green holiday tips that are good for you and good for the environment.
Are you getting ready to hang holiday lights in your home and yard? Consider using LED lights. They use a small fraction of the energy consumed by conventional string lights. Putting your lights on a timer will further reduce your electric consumption. Shopping for a Christmas tree? Consider buying a real tree. Artificial trees, most of which are now imported, are typically made of petroleum-based products and are not biodegradable. Choosing a live tree with a root ball enables your family to enjoy the tree in your home during the holidays and then plant it in your yard to enjoy for years to come. If you don’t have the space in your yard to plant a tree, choose a pre-cut tree-it’s still an eco-friendly choice. Once the holidays have passed, you can take your tree to Alpharetta’s upcoming, January 5 Bring One for the Chipper Event, where your tree will be transformed into free mulch. (See next week’s column for additional details on the Bring One for the Chipper Event).
Are you planning to give holiday gifts to friends and family? In just 30 minutes or less, you can make your own gifts using recycled materials. Check out Earth 911 at http://earth911.com/ for project ideas and instructions. You could also consider giving a gift of a sponsorship of a natural place. The Sierra Club offers many, reasonably-priced sponsorship gifts at www.sierraclub.org. For as little as $25, you can give a sponsorship of Yosemite National Park or another National Park. Your gift will include a stuffed animal or puppet, a photo, a certificate, and a fact sheet, and your $25 will help conservation efforts at that park. Another option is to purchase gifts made of recycled materials, such as a hammock that uses recycled plastic bottles instead of traditional rope, or necklaces made of beautiful, recovered antique glass. Before you buy wrapping paper for those gifts, be sure to re-use that wrapping paper (and the gift bags) that you salvaged from last year’s celebrations. You can also wrap gifts in kids’ drawings or newspaper comics. If you do need to buy wrapping paper, look for paper made from recycled paper products. If you’re planning to ship gifts to friends and family, avoid the non-biodegradable shipping peanuts and bubble wrap. Instead, give your old newspapers a second life by crumpling them into your shipping boxes. They secure and protect your gifts while in transit, and the newspapers and cardboard shipping box can be recycled or reused by your gift’s recipient.
If you enjoy cooking and entertaining at home, check out http://earth911.com/ for five holiday cookie recipes that use leftover fruits and vegetables. The sweet potato cookie recipe will turn your leftover sweet potatoes, nuts, and dried cranberries into a delicious treat. The Sierra Club’s website also offers sustainable menu ideas. When the party is over and you’re ready to clean up from your holiday feast, be sure to recycle all of those cardboard, glass, plastic and aluminum food containers.